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World: Momentum in international roaming September 8, 2006

Posted by Jasper in Mobile, Regulation.
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Recently, there is been a lot of focus on international roaming. Much of this interest seems to derive from the heated debate in the EU, initiated back in February when commissioner Viviane Reding warned of imminent and binding European laws to force a cut in international roaming charges.

In the period leading up to the final decision in July, a number European operators agreed to cut international wholesale roaming charges in a bid to avert EC. The EC ways not swayed by any of these initiatives and published pretty tough regulations.

Subsequently there have been several developments in international roaming on a more global scale that draw inspiration from the European experience.

In Africa, MTN (the regions largest mobile operator) is looking at reducing costs for subscribers who roam on its sister networks across Africa, according to CEO Phuthuma Nhleko. He said MTN would first look at existing international agreements before implementing any roaming tariff changes, and possibly enter into reciprocal wholesale arrangements with other operators on the continent to cap roaming costs. The MTN initiative mirrors deals between European operators.

In August, Taiwan Mobile announced it would lower its prices for cross-strait roaming services between Taiwan and China by 11.8-50.0%, through cooperation with China Mobile Communications, a leading mobile-communication services company in China, with the new charge rates to be effective on September 1 of this year.

Also in August Telecom regulators in Southeast Asia formed a task force to look into the varying international call charges among operators in the region. In an interview with BusinessWorld, National Telecommunications Commission (Philippines ) deputy commissioner Jorge Sarmiento said the creation of the task force is seen as an initial step in a bid to follow a similar move in Europe.

In Japan, NTT DoCoMo said on Tuesday (5 September) it aimed to cut tariffs for international roaming to undercut rivals and encourage more Japanese to use their phones abroad. The seven operators of the Asia-Pacific Mobile Alliance (APMA), including DoCoMo, were seeking to cut the fees they charge each other when serving each other’s customers, Toshinari Kunieda, director of DoCoMo’s global business unit, said in an interview. (APMA was set up this year by DoCoMo, Taiwan’s Far EasTone Telecommunications Co., India’s Hutchison Essar, Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. in Hong Kong, South Korea’s KTF Co., Indosat TBK PT, and Singapore’s StarHub Ltd). Such efforts by APMA may put pressure on other Asian alliances such as Bridge, which includes Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. and India’s Bharati AirTel.

It is very encouraging to see global flow-on effects of this kind.

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