Kampala, Uganda | URN | A policy-making organ in the East Africa Community (EAC) has given Tanzania and Burundi six months to harmonize their phone call costs with the rest of the bloc.
The Sectoral Committee on Transport, Communications, and Meteorology directed the two countries to implement the EAC Roaming Framework by 30th August 2023 and provide the status of implementation to the next Summit of the EAC Heads of State.
The Committee’s meeting held in Bujumbura, Burundi, also directed Tanzania to make the necessary statutory amendments towards the implementation of the 16th Summit directives (issued on 15th July 2015) with respect to roaming and surcharges on traffic from Partner States.
In 2014, the Council of Ministers, the organ responsible for making policies for the EAC, developed and passed the framework that would harmonize telephone calling tariffs in the region under the platform dubbed One Network Area.
It was endorsed by the EAC Heads of State in February 2015, it introduced the maximum tariffs that a network could charge on calls made to another country. Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and South Sudan adopted and implemented the framework, while Tanzania and Burundi declined to join the platform at the time.
The meeting is now the latest effort to ensure that the whole region implements the project to ease communication and lower the cost of doing business.
Tanzania, the bloc’s second-largest economy, and Burundi were also directed to make amendments to the wholesale tariffs setting the maximum (inter-operator tariff) at 0.07 dollars (2,580 Uganda shillings) per minute for traffic originating and terminating within EAC.
The retail tariff (on calls between phones) was capped at 0.10 dollars (about 380 Uganda shillings) per minute inclusive of taxes, for traffic originating and terminating within EAC.
The framework states also that there shall be no charges for receiving roaming calls originating within the EAC in addition to the removal of surcharges for international Traffic originating and terminating within the EAC.
Tanzania maintains this roaming charge, and, according to the Uganda Communications Commission-UCC, while there are zero charges for receiving calls by a Ugandan roamer in say Kenya, one pays 300 for every minute of call received while in Tanzania.
“Further, while a call back home by a Ugandan roamer in Kenya has been capped at 380 shillings, a similar call is priced at as much as 2,000 shillings, if the roamer is on a Tanzanian network,” says UCC.
A trial MTN Uganda call to Kenya on Safaricom cost 10 Shillings per second, which would translate to 600 Shillings per minute, far above the official known rate. A text message to MTN customer care about the One Network Area’s operation revealed that they were not implementing it.
“Unfortunately, it is no longer there,” one Stuart texted back. The EAC Roaming Framework or One Network Area was meant to harmonize mobile and data roaming charges across the region and make affordable calls starting from and ending within the region, says UCC Executive Director, Irene Sewankambo.
Like Tanzania, a standard call to Burundi, depending on the networks used, costs between 1,599 and 2,000 Shillings.
The meeting also called for the removal of surcharges on cross-border telecommunications traffic originating and terminating within the East African Community (EAC).
A survey of Tanzanians making frequent phone communications with contacts out of the country said phone calls were becoming less important, and advised to use platforms like WhatsApp instead, which are cheaper and uniformly rated.
The slight differences in the cost depend on the cost of data depending on the network used, which, they say is more convenient, provided the network’s internet is stable.
Tanzania, one of the three founder members of the EAC has dragged her feet on several EAC initiatives, raising doubt over its commitment to the region’s integration despite hosting the bloc’s capital at Arusha.