Why can’t R128 per MB roaming costs be regulated?

Data roaming part two: Surely this is the answer to sky-high rates?

May 10, 2013
Inconvenient Truth roaming mobile rates

It’s the obvious question: if international data roaming costs are so insanely high, why can’t a regulator like Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) simply force them lower?

Last week’s column, The truth about international mobile data roaming (part one in this three-part series) explained how these agreements and tariffs between operators are set up.

Crucially, they’re bilateral agreements. This means both operators have to agree to change rates – something they’re both unlikely to want to do, given the incredible margins in this business.

To be clear the operator on which a customer is roaming makes the money (the amount is billed straight through to that user’s home network).

So, its simply impossible for Icasa (or any other regulator) to try and regulate roaming charges in a vacuum – they’ll only be trying to regulate one half of an agreement.

And even if a regulator does manage to force through some sort of regulation, the agreement will then be lopsided, and the only people who’ll benefit are the international visitors roaming on any of our networks.

Hardly a solution.

The European Commission (EC) has regulated the telecoms space very effectively. In 2007, it capped voice and SMS rates across Europe. The Commission’s digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes then turned her sights on data roaming tariffs.

Data roaming within Europe, which was previously priced at around €5 per MB in 2009, has been forced lower from July 2012 to a cap of €0.70 per MB today.

There is a further drop coming in July (to €0.45), and the cap will be €0.20 by July 2014.  (Its even gone so far as to regulate wholesale tariffs, ie. what operators charge each other)

By 2014, customers will also have the choice of roaming provider – like they would choose a Wi-Fi network. Expect this to further stimulate competition.

The EC has also instituted a limit of €50 for data downloads and operators have to send customers a warning text message. Thereafter, consumers have to confirm they are happy to exceed this level (or another pre-agreed level).

Ironically, many large operators in Europe have networks in practically every country but, until the EC took action, were more than happy to charge their own customers exorbitant rates when they travelled on the continent.

Vodafone UK for example, now offers customers the option of “taking” their existing price plan with them in over 35 European countries, at an additional charge of only £3 per day. See what useful regulation does?

Beyond Europe however, the Commission is as hamstrung as every other regulator worldwide. It simply cannot regulate for its citizens travelling to other countries.

The best hope we have is for larger regulatory groupings (like the EC and FCC in the US) to start putting in place bilateral caps in place which will force others to act (and will hopefully move prices lower).

Perhaps the African Union could look at roaming regulations – after all it has a Human Resources, Science and Technology Commissioner? Although that’s wishful thinking…

Why isn’t SADC regulating this? I think we know the answer to that too…

And us South African consumers? None of the four operators have obvious ways for customers to either cap their usage overseas in real-time or to request alerts when they reach certain levels of usage.

The best we can do is pressure them into introducing these caps and warning systems.

Source: Moneyweb

More about high data roaming prices

Why roaming prices are insanely expensive

Roaming data rate: R534,477 per GB

R140,000 Bill: ‘Roaming is a bitch’

More competition needed to cut data roaming costs: OECD

Vodacom roaming price cut promotion

Tags: Headline, roaming, SADC

Anonymous News Tip
Free Email Newsletter:
Subscribe
X

Anonymous News Tip






Captcha image
Not readable? Change text.

sending

Shutterstock is the image partner of MyBroadband – technology images can be found here

Join the conversation

Connect with MyBB

twitterfacebookandroidappleblackberrynewsletterfeed

Poll

Are you using public WiFi hotspots to connect to the Internet in places like airports, restaurants or shopping malls?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

More News

Top tech deals this Easter

Sale

Many local retailers are offering technology products at reduced prices over the Easter period

First online pirate in SA pleads guilty, sentenced

Music pirate piracy

Majedien Norton, the Cape Flats man who was accused of uploading SA film Four Corners via Pirate Bay, has pleaded guilty to the charge

DStv Oscar Pistorius Trial Channel to take a break

Oscar Pistorius is seen during his murder trial at the North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday, 11 March 2014.Pistorius is accused of the murder of model and law graduate Reeva Steenkamp on February 14 last year. She was shot in the arm, hip and head. He is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, and two counts of discharging a firearm in public. Picture: Kevin Sutherland/Times Media Group/Pool

The Oscar Pistorius Trial Channel will take a break for two weeks

MTN strikes at the heart of Cell C

Cell C stab

MTN’s recent move to cut prepaid call rates to 79c per minute strikes at the heart of Cell C’s ability to improve its financial situation

bool(true)