What you need to know:
Deadline. Telecom companies have up to January 31 to join the one network area.
Kampala. Mobile phone subscribers within the East African region will now enjoy a flat rate and incur no cost for receiving calls as operators rush to meet the January 31 deadline to switch to One Network Area Arrangement (ONAA).
Latest to join the ONAA is MTN Uganda whose subscribers can now make calls at a flat fee to Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan.
In a statement dated January 8, MTN Uganda said: “Subscribers who make calls to networks within the visited country or make calls back to Uganda will be charged Shs360 per minute”.
“Our new offer also enables our subscribers to receive calls from Uganda at zero rates while roaming with the under the ONAA arrangement,” read the statement.
In the same line, all MTN subscribers intending to make calls to Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan will do it at significantly reduced rates of Shs330 per minute.
“Furthermore, any subscriber from Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan will be able to call MTN Uganda’s subscribers at similar rates,” read the statement.
Airtel Uganda’s public and corporate affairs manager Sandor Walusimbi said: “We were the pioneers of one network in the region where our customers would be charged according to the local rate. However effective Monday January 12th 2015 we shall rollout to the East African Community ONAA”.
Mr Walusimbi said Airtel they are introducing a flat rate of Shs350 per minute for those roaming subscribers roaming and Shs330 for Ugandans calling regionally.
The mobile operators are responding to an earlier regional leaders’ call to cut rates something which would reduce on the cost of doing business as integration progresses.
While meeting in December last year during the Northern Corridor integration project summit, regional leaders of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda called for the speedy implementation of the One Network Area.
The heads of states gave a January 31 2015 as the deadline for the cost of calling around the region to have dropped.
Non compliant telecom firms to suffer penalties - ucc
In an interview with Daily Monitor, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) executive director Godfrey Mutabazi warned: “All operators must comply with this directive by the heads of states and those who will not have done so, will suffer heavy penalties.”
On implementation of the One Network Area, Mr Fred Otunnu, the UCC communications manager, said there is no infrastructure required to monitor the new calling and roaming rates but it’s the consumer’s role to give feedback on whether it’s working or not.
However, he added: “As a regulator, we carryout calling tests to check whether the new rates are being adopted by telecommunication companies.”
Across the border, Kenya’s leading telecom company Safaricom, says it has been engaged in talks with Uganda and Tanzania to implement reduced charges, a move aimed at lowering the cost of doing business in the region.
Not part: Tanzania and Burundi, also members of the East African Community (EAC), are not part of this initiative, which is meant to promote integration among the five countries under the Northern Corridor infrastructure plan.
Call revenues: The Uganda government introduced an international levy on all international incoming calls in the 2013/14 national budget where it hoped to raise about Shs43 billion in a move to raise more revenues to fill the tight resource envelope, currently at Shs13.1 trillion.