Mobile operators like MTN, Vodacom and Cell C will soon have to give free data, discounts and airtime to poor households.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the announcement in his state of the nation address on Thursday evening.
In line with these new regulations — being worked on by the competition authorities — mobile operators will have to allow free access to educational and other public interest websites.
He said a market inquiry into data services was the basis for measures to reduce costs to consumers.
South Africans have long complained about the high price of data and airtime in the country.
In December last year, the Competition Commission recommended that service providers reduce the price of data or face prosecution.
Ramaphosa said the reduction in the cost of data was an important step “to improve lives, bring people into the digital economy and stimulate online businesses”.
“The competition authorities are now working towards a resolution with the large mobile operators to secure deep cuts to data prices across prepaid monthly bundles, additional discounts targeted at low income households, a free daily allocation of data and free access to educational and other public interest websites,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the digital economy would become a driver of growth and a creator of employment. But for this to succeed, Ramaphosa said there must be the availability of high demand spectrum to expand broadband access and reliability.
“The regulator, Icasa, has undertaken to conclude the licensing of high demand spectrum for industry via auction before the end of 2020,” Ramaphosa said.