East African countries have just announced plans to cut down call rates by over 60%. 5 countries are on board the project including Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania who form the EAC (East African Community), a group that aims to reduce barriers to trade in the region, communication being an important aspect of cross-border trade.
Mobile network operators (MNOs) in the region have agreed to cut their roaming call rates to over 60% to enable customers make cheaper calls fom other East African countries when they travel out if their country.
MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda were the first to wipe out the charges, where even a person receiving a call is not charged for it. This move was done after both Rwanda and Kenya wiped off the charges on incoming calls, making cross border calls cheap.
What’s the Zambian situation?
Our roaming rates were cut down recently but not as significantly as East Africa has. Subscribers still have to pay for receiving calls, even for receiving calls. This limits communication to mostly people using social messengers over wi-fi connections in the countries they travel to rather than make calls.
Airtel Zambia’s roaming plan has following conditions:
MTN Zambia has no details on their website about the rates, but lists its partners wordlwide through whom you can roam. Then there’s the ‘Roam Like Home‘ plan whose misleading name has us thinking your call and SMS rates still remain as they would if you were still in Zambia but in which a subscriber still has to pay incoming call charges for. Did somebody think ‘false advertising’ along with us as you read that?
Zamtel’s website also doesn’t give specifics on what the rates are but was quick to point out the advantages.
One thing I noticed is all 3 have instructions to contact their customer care about the roaming plans they offer, when they could have just placed the information on all that web space they all have.
Anyway, back to the subject, will Southern Africa, Zambia included, also follow suit and slash prices? It will greatly benefit the business community, encourage more subscribers to use voice and SMS services when travelling, and improve the economy as cross border connectivity rises in volume.
They may argue that maintaining overhead operational costs as an MNO will be affected, but when they make it a group effort, as the 5 East African countries have done, the costs will be minimal. MNOs may also argue that the telecoms market is also greater there than it is here but isn’t it moves like this that kickstart greatness? They don’t have to cut on everything, just the roaming specifically. Although it would be great to have overall cheaper service in the region.