Progress (miniscule) on implementing low intra-SAARC international voice tariffs

Posted on March 3, 2009  /  1 Comments

Given coincidence of the SAARC Minister’s meeting and the release of LIRNEasia’s twice-a-year price benchmarks, I was tempted to see how much progress had been achieved, with regard to the Colombo Declaration’s para 6 which called for low intra-SAARC international voice tariffs. Not much progress to report, unfortunately.

On the fixed side, the only countries with intra-SAARC tariffs lower than to non-SAARC countries, are Bhutan and Nepal. Bhutan, because it has a special price for India (other SAARC prices are high) and Nepal because it has not changed its extremely high tariff structure (and the lower-by-comparison intra-SAARC prices). Lanka Bell in Sri Lanka offers low prices to India, but our methodology does not capture that, because we take the prices of the largest operator, SLT.

On the mobile side, the same story, except for Sri Lanka, where Dialog has cut its prices to India to a level lower than UK, USA, etc. Nepal and Bhutan were good earlier; no change this time.

More than six months have gone by since the SAARC Summit. The South Asian Telecom Regulators Council met and discussed this subject (we provided the data). Seeing Dialog and Lanka Bell drop prices, we thought that at least the operators would do the right thing, while the regulators twiddled their thumbs, but looks like Dialog and Lanka Bell in Sri Lanka are the exception (and even they may have been pushed by Airtel).

Looks like action is needed from the regulators.

1 Comment

  1. Respected Dr Samarajiva,
    I fully agree that regulatory intervewntion is required BUT how to intervene? Particularly in the Nepalese case, it is more difficult as, the incument BOD Chairman is the Secretary of the of Ministry of Information and Communications and NTA reports to this ministry. There is no complete separation of funcions: policy making, regulation and operation. The government has distinctly two powers: policy making and operations. Political intervention though “psychological in general and concrete in some particular cases with respect to the incumbent’s issues are significant.

    There is a vehement objection from all the voice operators on the issue of fully liberalizing VoIP: allowing origination from and termination into the PSTN/PLMN. Sir, Do you see any short cut for the tariff reduction under such circumstances?
    Thank you,
    Ananda Raj Khanal