In relation to past promises, USD 1.5 billion may not be much, but I place little weight on promises of investment anyway. More significant is VietTel’s promise to allow roaming at domestic-like prices in the Greater Mekong Region. Now this too has been talked about. But not acted upon so far.
We are aware that the UN has identified tourism data as priority area in terms of exploring the potential of big data to contribute to the work of national statistical organizations (NSOs). However, this was not something we took on, given our programmatic priorities which are urban development, improved socio-economic monitoring and epidemiology. When we were asked to share ideas on tourism data and a few other areas by a major business group, we did apply our minds to the problem. Here is the slideset. What are the key ideas?
I have little sympathy for whinging about roaming regulation by operators, because I’ve heard it all before, in relation to reforms in international telephony. The sky was predicted to fall and rural areas deprived of needed investment. Yet we took away their cash cow and investment actually increased. But I had not psycho-analyzed their grief this well: Kroes also suggested that mobile operators will react to the loss of roaming revenue via various stages of grief. “They say that when faced with loss there are several stages of grief – from denial to anger to bargaining to acceptance.
First they had a uniform tariff for roaming. And now they announced to get rid of roaming charges altogether. Roaming fees for voice calls, texts and internet access will be a thing of the past across Europe from 2014, after European politicians voted to fast-track reforms of the European telecoms market. The European Commission — a group of 27 politicians who represent the best interests of Europe as a whole, rather than individual countries, voted in Brussels to push the reforms through before the next European elections, which will happen in May 2014. The resulting legislation will come into force on 1 July 2014.
South Asia is a tad short of two billion people, I keep reminding people. That is bigger than Africa. But we are not highly connected. I am sure there is more intra-East Africa travel than within S Asia. Europe, is smaller than Africa even if we include the population of Russia within it.
Surprisingly detailed attention has been paid to international roaming by the delegates in Dubai. Even the phenomenon of inadvertently connecting to a foreign network in border areas has been covered. Though of course none of the provisions are mandatory. 38A 4.4 Member States shall foster measures to ensure that authorized operating agencies provide free-of-charge, transparent, up-to-date and accurate information to end users on international telecommunication services, including international roaming prices and the associated relevant conditions, in a timely manner.
It is not that South Asian telcos are not moving in this direction, but I have not seen as good a description of a comprehensive solution to the “pain point” of international data roaming from them. I invite them to submit links if such descriptions exist. Telecom New Zealand has announced that, as of December 21, 2012, customers will have a simplified global-roaming charge rate that will dramatically cut the costs for using data while overseas. The rates for post-paid customers start at NZ$6 per day for data if travellers are visiting Australia or Christmas Island, or NZ$10 per day for the US, UK, Canada, China, Macau, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the world, the rate varies between NZ$2.
A significant number of base stations (around 20% or lower) in the Hurricane Sandy affected areas are supposed to have gone down, mainly due to electricity problems. I am sure the systems here in South Asia are a lot more robust in this aspect because our baseline expectations of the reliability of the electricity networks is much much lower. So our operators have way more backup capabilities. But anyway, a disaster is an extraordinary event. Bad things happen; all that we can do is minimize risks, not eliminate them.
PiRRC Research Assistant Shivanjini Anamika made an excellent presentation on intra-Pacific international call prices and roaming prices at the 5th Policy and Regulation Forum for the Pacific in Nadi, Fiji. The prices were high in general, but relatively lower prices were offered in the countries that had introduced competition. The presentation is here. This makes a direct contribution to the APT’s interest in lowering roaming rates, as signified in its Bali Action Plan of 2009 and several workshops held since.
I was in Kathmandu June 11-13 for a World Bank workshop on regional cooperation for journalists. I could have talked about the challenges of increasing integration in the world’s least integrated region through the lens of the battles over CEPA. But I decided to talk about a subject that was much more mundane, but one where we at LIRNEasia could provide current factual information that no one else could: the related topics in intra-SAARC calling charges being too high and within SAARC roaming charges being rapacious. The talk is here. The media included: Nepal’s Republica and Sri Lanka’s LBO.
Europe was the pioneer in regulating voice roaming. It has now acted on data roaming. If talk could bring down prices, South Asia would also be a pioneer. European lawmakers on Thursday approved a plan to extend and lower the Continent’s limits on mobile phone roaming charges paid by consumers for another five years, and added the first controls on mobile Internet use. In addition to the caps, the legislation adopted by the European Parliament will allow E.
It’s been several years since we publicized the Zain innovation that brought down roaming prices in East Africa. No one picked up the inelegant workaround. Until now, when Airtel has sort of started the process. Indians traveling to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh will have one thing less to worry about. Airtel, which has operations in these two countries as well, has announced a new tariff for its customers in India, under which they will be able to make local calls in the country at Rs 1, while calling back home will cost them Rs 10.
A roaming customer buys the service from his/her service provider, the one who controls the number. The service provider purchases roaming and billing services from a foreign operator in order to provide the service to the customer. Today, the most that a customer who wants to be reachable (who wants to receive calls while abroad) can do is register on networks of operators in foreign countries who offer lower prices to his/her provider. If there is a possibility of competition here, it’s a faint one. What the EU appears to be doing is to allow a customer to buy roaming services in the home country from a service provider other than the regular carrier.
The European Union was the only regional grouping taking concerted action to curb the exploitation of the customers of others by operators. But all this time, their actions had effects only within Europe. Now they’re capping roaming costs overall. This will cause European operators to actually negotiate for lower rates from those from whom they purchase roaming services. According to the waterbed theory (which has no foundation in fact, but is trotted out every time operators see some monopoly niche being attacked), this should result in higher roaming costs for the rest of us, non-Europeans.
It has been an unfortunate fact that Sri Lanka and India have signed many agreements that have not been implemented. This caused me to write a column some years back entitled “An MOU to implement MOUs.”. The one difference that I see in the short LBO report on cooperation between India and Sri Lanka on telecom is that the word MOU has been replaced by agreement. But I hope I am wrong and that there will be real implementation.
We got into roaming because TRAI asked us to. This was just after the SAARC Summit in Colombo in 2008. I thought there’d be more talk about roaming since another SAARC talkfest just ended. But looks like TRAI has decided the neighborhood is not worth the trouble. They want cheap roaming in Europe.