Friday July 11 2014

One-network-area scheme is good for EA

The plan by East African countries to have all phone users on same network in the region charged a uniform cross-border call rates by 2015 offers good choices.

This means the one-network-area scheme will have all callers on the same network in East Africa charged the same amount of money as local subscribers in another member country.

Simply said, callers on same network will not be charged any roaming fee for receiving calls while travelling within East Africa.

This mutual plan means phone calls originating from member countries will be charged only as much as domestic call charges to same network in Rwanda, Kenya, and South Sudan.

This also means all international call exchange between Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and South Sudan have been downgraded to domestic one-network-area and rendered cheaper without any surcharge.

This plan is good because it opens up the entire East Africa telecom market to Ugandans, Rwandans, Kenya, and South Sudanese without the extra fee for roaming. The roaming charge had limited cross-border phone calls.

The downside is that this regional plan applies to only calls originating and terminating within East Africa. All the same, this one-network-area now levels the ground for fair telecoms competition.

The move also consolidates the East African telecoms market as more callers on same network get more talk-time and interaction at a low price.

This makes cheaper the costs of doing business and ropes in more phone buyers and subscribers. This one-network-area should also beef up our not-so airtight phone registration drive to match requirements in the region. Above all, this plan bonds our EAC integration process and makes us see ourselves as a one-network-area community.

Deplorably, this mutual telecommunications plan excludes calls to and from Tanzania and Burundi because both have not signed up to the Protocol.
Even so, the political commitment by Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and South Sudan to see the projects succeed is laudable.

Indeed, for bigger affect, this one-network-area model should also mix in the mobile money transfer scheme. This would widen the uptake of banking services and promote rapid, cheap and convenient mobile money banking.

In a surprisingly short time, the mobile money service has caught on as part of region’s everyday life. This service will as well ease the burden of carrying cash around and exposing owners to risks.

These reasons make it essential that Uganda’s telecom operators should be nudged so they follow through their pledges to have the one-network-area model done. MTN and Airtel, as two of Uganda’s biggest telecom players, should quickly come on board and enforce the full rollout of the model for east Africa between September 1 and 31, 2014.