At the recent SATRC (South Asia Telecommunication Regulator’s Council) workshop on Policy, Regulation and Services held in Kathmandu, Nepal, 30 July – 01 August 2013, Wangay Dorji, Head of Telecommunication at BICMA (Bhutan InfoComm and Media Authority) spoke on the state of regional mobile roaming within the SAARC countries. Using LIRNEasia research, he points out the overall high prices South Asian’s pay while roaming within the region in comparison with the favorable tariffs offered in other regions such as the European Union (EU).
The presentation confirms that plans are underway in the ASEAN region towards a unified approach. SATRC has also initiated a study for the same. However, given the proliferation of smart phones, and thereby apps such as Viber and Whatsapp, users are now able to communicate across the seas on a no-cost or low-cost basis (access to a reasonably good Internet connection being a mandatory condition). Given alternatives exist, are the issues associated with mobile roaming still relevant? Or is working towards better broadband quality in South Asia what deserves the focus?