Mobile operators in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe recently agreed to reduce roaming tariffs as part of a pilot roaming project, which will commence among all operators in the four countries by September 1.
All mobile operators of the four member states participating in the pilot project will commence making the necessary arrangements to implement a glide path, as agreed upon at a recent meeting hosted by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). The arrangements include amending their bi-lateral roaming agreements, in particular the inter operator tariffs for all roaming services. The participating member states also agreed that wholesale and retail tariffs will be reduced annually, in line with a glide path as approved by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) information and communication technology (ICT) ministers. Participants at the meeting on August 5 and 6 resolved that operators will not be forced to go into reduced tariff agreements with operators in countries not participating in the pilot project. However, a statement from CRAN noted that other member states wishing to participate in the project prior to October 1 are welcome to participate, and mobile operators should engage with their respective mobile roaming partners to ensure their participation.
Members also agreed that the project on the harmonised cost study for wholesale tariffs as adopted by the SADC ICT ministers at their meeting in Walvis Bay will continue. It was also agreed that the quality of services is very important and therefore roaming customers should experience the same quality of service as national customers when roaming.
According to CRAN, a recommendation will be made to the Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) that a regional clearing house be established to ensure lower costs for roaming in the region.
CRAN also noted that the utilization of existing direct links between member states should be addressed at policy level to ensure further reduction of costs and to avoid routing of regional traffic via international carriers or agents.
“Regional mobile telephony roaming plays a strategic role in accelerating regional integration and economic development in the SADC region. Thus this meeting aimed at fast tracking the implementation of the approved SADC roadmap in line with the decision of the ICT Ministers on SADC home and away roaming, and to initiate the pilot project that will see the four countries enter into a bilateral agreement on the basis pertaining to the SADC home and away roaming project,” said Mbeuta Ua-Ndjarakana, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, who chaired the meeting.