ASEAN citizens don’t need to obtain visa while traveling within the region. They receive visa on arrival. It is an important benchmark of successful regional cooperation. Indonesia’s Communication and Information Minister, Tifatul Sembiring, wants to take it another step ahead. He has proposed to abolish mobile roaming charges withing ASEAN by 2014. Interestingly, Myanmar will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN on that year. Roaming-free ASEAN will be a huge boost to this one of the three very last closed economies (Cuba and DPR Korea) of the world.
GSM was intended to be a pan-European mobile telephonic standard. Its inadvertent emergence as an affordable alternative to PSTN in developing countries, notably in Asia, is a brilliant example of unintended consequence. Freefalling of handset prices and declining cost of networks have triggered the meteoric rise of mobile penetration. Roaming-free ASEAN will dwarf the European Union in terms of public policy. And SAARC will keep burning the taxpayers’ money in its annual periodic extravaganzas.