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SADC roaming services discussed

Acting Chief Executive Officer Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia, Hilma Hitula

A SADC Roaming Glide Paths workshop was held in Windhoek at the Hilton Hotel earlier last week, following the approval and the  implementation of the retail tariff glide path as of the 1st of January 2015 by the SADC Ministers responsible for telecommunications, postal and ICT. Acting Chief Executive Officer Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), Hilma Hitula delivered the official opening remarks at the workshop. “I would also like to thank the participants who have been here for the entire week for your commitment.

I am sure you were able to garner sufficient and relevant information pertaining to Spectrum Management and to enjoy the world renowned hospitality of Namibia,” she said.  The decision of the retail tariff glide path was spurred by the necessary activity amongst the SADC Member States and more specifically the regulators on whom it is now incumbent to ensure the smooth implementation. Said Hitula,“the fact that operators are charging high prices for international mobile roaming services is commonplace and this is a worldwide challenge. An example is the estimate by the European Union that retail roaming prices are on average 118% higher than the estimated underlying costs.” “This is clearly an untenable situation, principally due to the fact the mobilea phones and smart devices have become necessary tools, socially and economically,” she added. According to the Authority, a report by TA Telecom stated that mobile penetration on the African continent has reached 80% this means 8 out of 10 or approximately 802.4 million people have mobile phones in Africa. The wide availability of mobile phones especially smart phones, has also triggered substantial growth in data consumption and we can expect a significant increase as broadband networks expand their capacity and as new technologies such as cloud computing become more commonplace. It is thus not peculiar that mobile data services are increasingly being used by subscribers when roaming internationally. A discussion paper produced at the 2012 Global Symposium for Regulators recorded that African mobile operators have been leaders in reducing and eliminating international mobile roaming charges. According to the Hitula at the workshop, challenges in the sector prompted the SADC Ministers responsible for telecommunications, postal services and ICT to intervene. “In May 2010, the SADC Ministers adopted a Policy Statement with the following key objectives: transparency, consumer awareness and empowerment, cost-based pricing and effective competition.  During the workshop it was noted that the SADC Home and Away Roaming Project is being implemented in three phases namely: Phase I: Liberalization, transparency, information and data collection;  Phase II: Roam Like a Local (RLAL, for short) and Phase III: Cost-based roaming price regulation. In implementing Phase I, SADC Guidelines on Transparency were developed and became effective on the 1st of June 2013. These guidelines specify the minimum information and transparency levels that need to be provided, on demand, by mobile operators to consumers regarding their regional roaming tariffs.” According to the Authority, the guidelines are also aimed at empowering and protecting consumers, especially with regards to bill shocks and also particularly to assist regulators in the monitoring of transparency measures. Meanwhile, Phase II, known as “Roam Like a Local”, is the subject of a study commissioned by CRASA, which was recently concluded. Since the SADC Ministers have already endorsed the need for regulatory 6 intervention with regards to roaming, the focus of the report was the provision of guidelines for Ministerial consideration and for the formulation of a practical action programme for the execution of the Roam Like a Local project.

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