CRASA: Roaming tariffs to drop 66%

Telecommunication regulators are scrambling to implement a directive by regional ministers for the reduction of mobile roaming costs by 66%

The move is expected to bring relief to consumers who in certain countries in the region are paying mark-ups of up to 200% particularly for data, once they cross borders. crasa roaming

Communicators Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA), a SADC-mandated body grouping telecoms regulators in 15 regional states, was tasked with implementing the reduction by 2018, according to the resolution of ministers dating back to 2008.

Regional roaming charges are notoriously high, with a 2010 CRASA study showing that customers in certain countries in the SADC region, particularly the island members, were paying up to 200 times for data roaming, over the price of domestic charges. Voice roaming customers in the region were being forced to pay up to 10 times the domestic charge, once they crossed borders, the study showed.

Mobile operators have resisted SADC’s efforts through CRASA to push roaming charges down, claiming that various ‘special costs’ go into roaming as opposed to domestic service. Critics, however, have accused the operators of deliberately complicating the costing and technicalities of roaming, in order to collude and charge exorbitant mark-ups without scrutiny.

This week, CRASA head of electronic communication, Bridget Linzie told BusinessWeek the organisation had requested regional ministers for more time to implement the resolution on the tariffs. crasa roaming

She said the delay was necessary in order to produce a harmonised cost model for roaming, which would guide national regulators on the caps to place on mobile operators.

Ten bidders are in the running to develop the model, which is due for completion this year. “The model will help us understand what goes into the pricing for roaming because for years we have been going back and forth with the operators, but we could not agree on anything,” she said. “They would tell us that there are special costs for roaming and we want to understand that through the model. The model will help us understand these extra costs so that we put the caps in place. “The model will inform us, because we also do not want them to operate below cost.”

Linzie said since the 2008 resolution, operators in eight SADC countries, including Botswana had already reduced their roaming charges by 33%. CRASA has been using ‘peer pressure’ as well as market fundamentals to force other operators to lower their charges.

SADC ministers believe affordable and competitive mobile roaming tariffs will contribute towards regional integration.

“Affordable roaming enables significant regional economic activity by assisting to unlock new opportunities through ease in connecting the travellers to people and business. In addition, the lowering reduces the cost of doing business across the SADC borders, allowing for free flow and reduced barriers to regional trading,” read a CRASA document.


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