Patrick Nyirishema, director general of the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), has announced that telecom operators in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda have committed to cap the minimum roaming charges in the three countries to help boost integration of the East African Community (EAC) from 1 October 2014, AllAfrica reports. The executive revealed that the unified network project would be fast-tracked as soon as a minor setback involving the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is ironed out. Nyirishema was cited as saying: ‘We are committed to achieving this objective. However, Uganda’s sector regulator, the UCC, has had to review [its] policy, which delayed the process.’ South Sudan is set to join the initiative later this year, with other countries in the region also expected to follow suit. Although Tanzania and Burundi did not participate in the initial talks that led to the pact, the two countries have been given until 31 December to carry out studies on the minimum roaming charges they expect.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the five EAC member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – have seen cross-border roaming charges increase dramatically over the last few years, prompting cellcos to demand that the roaming fees should be scrapped. In 2012 RURA increased the charges for receiving a call to RWF144.3 (USD0.2) from the previous charge of RWF59, while regulators in Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania introduced similar taxes. Calls to Uganda and Burundi previously cost RWF60, which was hiked to RWF120 and RWF350, respectively. Enos Bukuku, EAC deputy secretary general for planning and infrastructure, pledged that the secretariat will come up with a model that will make roaming rates affordable, and called on operators and governments to discuss the issue.