From Benjamin a ameh, Lagos
The pressure on Telecoms is mounting ahead of the East African Community Heads of State summit that will discuss progress on their prior agreement of having a “One Network” that is seeking to slash cross-border call rates. As per the agreement, the entire EAC region, including South Sudan, would adopt ONAA by 2015.
According to reports MTN Rwanda announced on Monday, October 6, that it has cut down charges on call for its roaming subscribers ahead of Wednesday’s launch of One Network Area Agreement. MTN follows Kenya’s Safaricom who slashed their rates to Rwanda by 60%.
The One Network Area Agreement (ONAA) is a commitment by regional countries to push for a reduction on international and roaming tariffs to ensure affordable communication services to spur trade and ease doing business.
Teta Mpyisi, MTN Rwanda’s publicist confirmed to media on Tuesday evening that: “Our charges have been cut in accordance with the One Area Network agreement.” Earlier, customers speculated that MTN, who have enjoyed a decade of monopoly until recently, was instead acting under pressure from local and vibrant competition.
MTN’s Mpyisi said all telecoms are cutting down their rates as per the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) policy. MTN Rwanda customers making Voice calls to Kenya for example, will be charged RWF60 per minute (down from RWF122), while receiving calls in the country will be free for MTN subscribers (previously RWF51). Pre- and post-paid subscribers will now be charged RWF68 (USD0.10) per minute when roaming in the neighboring country, down from the previous charge of RWF178. In the last few years, cross-border roaming charges increased sharply prompting mobile phone operators across the region to demand that roaming charges be scrapped.
MTN boss declined to comment on whether the downward revision of roaming fees would affect MTN Rwanda’s revenue. Telecoms make 4% of Rwanda’s economy, but facilitate all other sectors; banking, tourism, and hospitality. Mobile penetration in Rwanda is estimated to be over 60%.
According to KT Press, the ONAA launch will exclude Uganda for now as it is still reviewing its policy. Rwanda’s ICT Minister, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, said the move “will improve our trade ties within the region.” The development has mixed impacts. On one hand, businesses are relieved, and on the other, telecoms lose revenues.