South Africa’s communications watchdog on Thursday called on mobile operators to offer free services during the coronavirus situation.
The country has recorded the highest number of people in Africa who have tested positive for Covid-19 or coronavirus.
“ICASA (The Independent Communications Authority of SA) is requesting all network service providers to heed the call to enable the country to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, by facilitating easy and affordable (and/or free) access to data,” the regulator said in a statement.
The regulator added that it was engaging the sector on possible ways of radiofrequency spectrum relief for the duration of the declared state of disaster to ease congestion, ensure good quality of broadband services, and enable licensees to lower cost of access to consumers (particularly in relation to education, emergency and other social services).
ICASA said these engagements take place in the context of the expected surge in usage of data as the majority of South Africans across all sectors have no option but work from home, learn from home and carry on their day to day life activities (i.e. shopping, entertainment, etc.) from home through technological means.
This will result in a spike in data usage, particularly as consumers also access information with regards to the pandemic – thus placing strain on the capacity of networks.
“In this context, it is therefore critical that the authority considers regulatory concessions or relaxations to enable the sector to meet the demands of the business unusual environment occasioned by the pandemic,” said ICASA’s acting chairperson, Dr. Keabetswe Modimoeng.