I wish the question mark was not necessary, but the record so far does not allow me exclude it.
We started this process in the weeks before the 2008 SAARC Summit. When the issue was mentioned in the SAARC Chair’s speech and included in the Declaration, we were, naturally, pleased. I recall telling a journalist that at most it would take a few months to get this implemented.
We raised the issue with the then Chair of the South Asian Telecom Regulator’s Council, Mr Nripendra Misra of India. I went to Delhi to brief him and hand over the relevant benchmark data. That was last October. More than a few months since the SAARC Summit.
The only progress we have seen has come from the private operators. Both Lanka Bell and Dialog have lowered prices to call India; no longer can we say that it costs less to call non-SAARC countries than SAARC, at least with respect to Sri Lanka.
This is one area where concerted action is necessary by all the SAARC members. Lower the termination rates to an agreed level, if necessary with an annual step down. Then no one can say that one country’s operators are benefiting vis-à-vis another’s.
A regional Regulators’ Conference scheduled to be held in Colombo next week is expected to seek consensus from all members on a single International Direct Dialing (IDD) rate for the region. Sri Lankan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRC) Director General Priyantha Kariyapperuma told the Sunday Times FT that this will be discussed at the annual 11th South Asian Telecommunications Regulators Council (SATRC – 11) on November 24-26 in Colombo .
“The SATRC-11 will address the key policy and regulatory issues in the SAARC countries. Once you have regional collaboration you have trans-border communication facilities without any restrictions,” he noted.