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SADC running out of time to cut roaming costs

SADC running out of time to cut roaming costs

The Communications Regulators' Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) is reported to have requested a deadline extension on its mandate to oversee the reduction of mobile roaming charges across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) by 2018.

CRASA was handed the mandate by SADC member countries and local media have reported that the organisation has requested an extension after having advertised its proposal for experienced companies to develop a roaming cost model.

Bridget Linzie, Head of Electronic Communications at CRASA says the organisation will only be able to provide a detailed update on its management of the project after it obtains approval to do so from the office of SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax.

Linzie did not specify how long this would take.

"Since information to the public can come only from the Executive Secretary office, according to our operational procedures, kindly allow time for response from CRASA."

Companies interested in the contract to develop the cost model had until 30 November 2017 to submit their proposals to CRASA.

"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 of International Mobile Roaming cost reduces the cost of doing business across the SADC border, allowing for free flow and reduced barriers to regional trading. Further, as trading capital freely flows throughout the region, investment in trade increases and allowing for financial integration," explained the Association in its call for proposals.

The SADC roaming project will be implemented in three phases, according to CRASA.

While few SADC operators have moved to reduce roaming charges over the years, Swazi MTN recently reduced its South African roaming rates in a move the company described as an effort to align itself with objectives of the SADC initiative.

Swazi MTN's roaming prices to South Africa costs 64% less, while data charges were slashed by 51% and SMS prices by 26%.

Peter Zimri, councillor at South African regulator ICASA expressed the regulator's support for reduced roaming costs in the region during the SADC ICT Ministers' meeting held in Durban last year.

"For us as South Africa, achieving low roaming charging for calls is important not only for attracting visitors to our country but it's also important for cross-border trade," said Zimri.

Thirteen regulatory institutions in the SADC region are active members of CRASA and originate from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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