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Comesa in deal to abolish phone roaming charges

Member states of Comesa have reached a deal to abolish telephone roaming charges, raising hope for cheaper services for users in the bloc. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Member states of Comesa have reached a deal to abolish telephone roaming charges, raising hope for cheaper services for users in the bloc. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have reached a deal to abolish telephone roaming charges, raising hope for cheaper services for users in the bloc.

“Although pricing of voice services in many African countries was becoming competitive and comparable with the rest of the world, the cost of broadband continued to be out of reach of most people,” ministers from the bloc stated in a final report that resolved to adopt uniform call rates.

They noted that users in Africa paid on average 25 per cent of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita mobile calls compared to 11 per cent in other developing nations.

As part of the deal, the ministers agreed to draft regulations to support investment in the Virtual Mobile Network Operator (MVNOs) as a way of enhancing competition and access to services.

In Africa, MVNO permits have been issued in Morocco, Kenya and South Africa. Comesa countries represent over 37 per cent of Internet users in Africa while the continent represents seven per cent of Internet users across the world, but the bloc only constitutes 2.5 per cent of the world’s population of Internet users.

The East Africa Community (EAC) has already implemented the concept of uniform telephone charges. Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have already implemented harmonised voice and SMS charges under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects.

The EU is February also cleared a final hurdle to cap the wholesale charges mobile service operators pay each other to enable their customers to use their phones in other European countries, paving the way for the abolition of roaming fees in June.

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