Its when an inbound international call is received in South Africa, but the call does not have it’s original CLI (caller line identity). For example a person in England with number +4412345678910 calls a person in SA, but when it reaches it’s destination in South Africa it no longer has its original international CLI, but instead has a local CLI now, for example +27876543210.
In other words the call started in the UK destined for South Africa, but by the time it reached the South African destination it had a new local South African CLI.
Why are some providers manipulating international CLI? Its highly lucrative, which always seems to be the drive for criminal behaviour. For example: if you route 1 million local minutes a month then it will cost you roughly R0.25 per minute. For the same volume of minutes for calls originating from international origins terminating in SA, the minute rate is around R3.
Why is international CLI manipulation illegal? Well firstly it’s because it’s ICASA legislation and all telecoms operators in South Africa must adhere to the law or face fines and/or penalties.
How much can you be fined? The receiving telco in SA is allowed to post-invoice the offender at the correct rate, for example R3 per minute instead of the R0.25. The receiving telco is also allowed to fine the offender 30% of the correct total spend. It is thus very foolish to route grey minutes, because they will catch you and they will fine you.
How do the telcos identify grey minutes? There are multiple methods for telcos to find grey minutes. All major telcos have a team dedicated to finding illegal traffic to ensure they don’t lose money. The best method I am aware of is where these teams purchase international calling cards and use it to make a call to their own local number. The team simply lookup the CLI received, which is tied to a local operator, which in turn will be fined. This is called a poisoned route and seems to be the norm for all the big telcos.
How do you protect yourself against grey minutes? The simplest method is to have a contract with your customers which states that they should adhere to ICASA legislation or face a fine. That should cover all illegalities, but discuss with your lawyer rather as there is no accurate way to monitor illegal traffic.
The major telcos in SA are the primary enforcers of the international CLI manipulation legislation and with good reason, because they are losing money. This is all good and well, but there is another BIG problem I have with this legislation, let me explain.
While ICASA controls the interconnect rate between Telcos locally, it does not specify any maximum costs for inbound international minutes. Telcos are free to charge whatever they want, and thus ICASA enables the major telcos to monopolise this portion of the market. There is thus no way for us to compete in this section of the market as long as the telco’s rates for resellers are so expensive and ungoverned! If you ask me this seems like a monopoly ensuring that the major telcos receive the majority of minutes destined for themselves.
How did this all happen? Well we all know the history of the interconnect rate drop. We started a few years ago with interconnect rates of over R2 per minute between Vodacom and MTN. It was Vodacom and MTN’s intention to increase the interconnect rate between them to such a high rate that the small guys like Cell C could not grow their network, it was another monopoly in disguise. After much noise from the small telcos ICASA stepped in and started dropping the interconnect rate to where it is today, R0.12 per minute. The reason ICASA stepped in was because South Africans were directly affected by the high costs of telecommunication. With inbound international traffic it is the international citizen that is affected, hence ICASA hasn’t stepped in. ICASA is however failing to notice and protect the smaller telcos in SA who have since been completely removed from this market.
Why are inbound international rates so high? ICASA decided a few years ago to remove any prescribed rates for inbound international traffic. In other words local telcos can ask any rate when a call originates from international origins destined for South Africa. ICASA is thus only governing local routes while inbound international routes have no legislation regarding rates and charges.
Maybe the heading should read: “BizVoIP slams ICASA for lack of international market development and enabling monopolies again”