Roam like at home: the East Africa Community has a scheme for cheaper call rates

SETH ONYANGO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

EAST African Community (EAC) consumers could soon bid farewell to expensive roaming rates after the regional outfit said it was inching closer to standardising call tariffs for travel within the block.

The One Network Area (ONA) imposes a cap on inter-state traffic calling tariffs at $0.1 per minute and eliminates mobile roaming fees, facilitating seamless communication and transactions.

The single network area is expected to boost the region’s economic development by improving connectivity and facilitating trade and investment.

The initiative aligns with the EAC’s broader goal of creating a single market and production base and fostering regional integration.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the review of the secretariat’s 6th development strategy, EAC Secretary General Peter Mathuki said Tanzania’s ONA regulations, which are in the pipeline, will complete the process.

Mathuki noted that save for Tanzania, other member states, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, had ratified the agreement.

“Once Tanzania has completed the regulations to accommodate the one network area, then the EAC will have fully implemented the one network area,” he said, adding that Burundi will join later this year.

The EAC, comprising the nations above, jointly pledged in 2014 to establish a single network for the quintet of economies, with its benefits extended to South Sudan.

Attainment of ONA will enhance commerce within the East African Community by reducing telecommunication tariffs and encouraging similar launches across Africa.

Data gathered by the EAC Sectoral Council before the implementation of ONA shows a wholesale price cap of $7 cents per minute allows all mobile network operators within the community to provide roaming services profitably.

Additionally, the Council discovered that the regional average minimum retail price for roaming voice calls made in visited countries was $8.7 cents per minute.

One of the critical elements of the single network area is harmonising policies and regulations related to the telecommunications sector. This includes aligning the spectrum allocation and pricing policies and the licensing and interconnection regimes across the EAC member states.

The EAC has also been working to establish a legal and institutional framework for the single network area, including establishing a regulatory authority to oversee the initiative’s implementation.

In addition to the policy and regulatory measures, the EAC also focuses on the physical infrastructure required to establish the single network area. This includes the construction of new telecommunications infrastructure, such as fibre-optic cables and cellular towers, to connect the various regions and improve the quality of service.

Overall, the EAC’s efforts to establish a single network area are expected to lead to a more integrated and interconnected region, with improved access to ICT and increased trade and investment.

But there are challenges, which include aligning existing national policies and regulations with the common regulatory framework, the need for capacity building and technical assistance, and the need for adequate funding to support the implementation of the single network area.






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