Kenyan wireless operator Safaricom, the country’s leading cellco in terms of subscribers, has announced that it will suspend the introduction of reduced roaming charges to Rwanda, following a Rwandan government directive which installed new levies on international calling and roaming tariffs between the two countries, AllAfrica reports. Safaricom’s CEO Bob Collymore disclosed that the new development ‘makes it impossible’ for operators in Kenya and Rwanda to go ahead with the planned downward revision of roaming tariffs under the ‘One Network Area’ programme. ‘We will therefore revert to the previous tariffs even as we push on with efforts to ensure that we have affordable calling rates for the region’. Safaricom planned to cut the voice call rate to/from Rwanda to KES10 (USD0.11) per minute, less than half the current rate of KES25 per minute. The CEO also said that the company has entered into discussions with the Ministry of Information and Communications and telecoms regulator the Communications Authority (CA), seeking a revision of the position taken by the Rwanda government.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, telecom operators in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda committed to cap the minimum roaming charges in the three countries from 1 October 2014; South Sudan was set to join the initiative later this year, with other countries in the region also expected to follow suit. 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 Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (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.