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Cablegate: Ustr: Sag Response to Section 1377 Telecom Trade Agreements

VZCZCXYZ0001
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSA #0180 0281455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281455Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3301
INFO RUCPDC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PRETORIA 000180

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EEB/CIP/BA
USTR FOR CATHERINE HINCKLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECPS ETRD USTR SF
SUBJECT: USTR: SAG RESPONSE TO SECTION 1377 TELECOM TRADE AGREEMENTS
2008 REVIEW

REF: STATE 03689

1. (U) Summary. ICT Officer provided the Independent Communications
Authority of
South Africa (ICASA) with a copy of the USTR question regarding the
rules that
govern market access for foreign satellite operators and the
industry comments
USTR has received concerning the telecommunications regulatory
environment in
South Africa (reftel). ICASA officials requested additional time to
provide a
formal response to the question and comments provided by post.
ICASA Councillor
Dr. Tracey Cohen responded informally to the question as an interim
response and
stated that South Africa currently does not have a set of aggregate
rules that
govern access for foreign satellite operators. ICASA is in the
process of
implementing new legislation intended to improve competitiveness in
the South
African telecommunications market. Post will report further
information once
ICASA has provided its formal response. End Summary.

2. (U) Post contacted ICASA Councillor Dr. Tracey Cohen to request a
response to
USTR questions and comments outlined in reftel. Dr Cohen reported
that ICASA
has tried for a year and a half to develop an aggregate set of rules
to govern
the practices of South African telecom licensees and their partners.
ICASA has
not been able to formalize a regulatory framework for
telecommunications issues
despite an initiative started in July 2007. Dr. Cohen stated that
ICASA is
still in the process of defining regulations and there has only been
a push in
the last month to do so. She believed that it will take some time
for this
process to "get off the ground". With respect to the question
concerning access
for foreign satellite operators, Cohen stated that the major rule
that affects
foreign satellite operators is that they have to contract with
telecom licensees
that have local (South African) ownership.

3. (U) The press has been critical of the lack of competitiveness in
the South
African telecommunications market. Telkom South Africa enjoyed a
protected
monopoly status until the Electronic Communications Act (ECA) of
2005 was
passed. ICASA was charged with implementing the ECA, which removed
monopoly
elements from old licenses and ensured that licensees have no
special privileges
over one another. A second fixed-line operator Neotel entered the
market as a
result. ICASA was also tasked with issuing new licenses to mobile
operators and
Internet service providers. However, ICASA missed its original
timeframe to
issue these licenses as expected in November 2007. The
telecommunications
market is expected to become more competitive once these licenses
are approved
in early 2008.

END TEXT

BOST

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