EAC is set to review one network area implementation

In Summary
  • One Network Area promises cheaper calls.
  • The meeting held in Kigali - Rwanda.
Permanent secretary at the ministry of ICT, Dr. Aminah Zawedde
Image: Royal way media team

Regional communications sector regulators have resolved to review the implementation of the One Network Area (ONA) framework on roaming charges to help deal with emerging issues arising from its current form of implementation.

The One Network Area promises cheaper calls across the East Africa community with the benefits of making communication easier and cheaper and also to promote business in the region.

The development was reached at during a two-day Heads of Communications Regulatory Authorities meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda.

Dr. Aminah Zawedde, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda and the chair of the ICT Infrastructure Development Cluster under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP) one of official that represented Uganda in the meeting in a two day meeting held in Kigali Rwanda, noted that the meeting agreed to engage operators on how to deal with emerging issues.

“We have agreed that we are going to go back to the operators and engage them in our countries, and then get to know what their experiences are about this [ONA] framework,” Dr. Zawedde said at the end of the summit held at Four Points Hotel.

Dr. Zawedde, however, noted the operators’ feedback will not affect the framework objectives whose original position stands that the receiver of calls during the roaming process should not be charged.

 “As we look at whatever challenges that could have cooked up for the last nine years, we still want to maintain that the receiver will not be charged for receiving roaming calls within the region, but how we ensure that this happens comfortably amongst the operators in the region that is the gist and focus of this discussion,” she explained.

All member countries including Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda are implementing the framework, with some reporting challenges, according to Dr. Zawedde.

During the same meeting, Eng. Irene Kaggwa-Sewankambo, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Executive Director said Uganda has fully implemented the framework.

Eng. Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, ED Uganda Communications commission
Image: Royal way media team

“In terms of what has really been achieved, the roaming calling rates have almost 90% reduced; the traffic and trade in the region have also increased because, now people are more comfortable to roam. Once you have communication, life becomes easier,” said Eng.

"We have students studying across the countries, but even traders importantly, traders are able to move around the region. So you don't have to worry that I have to go to the other country then I have to first get a new SIM card for that country, yet I'm only going to spend one or two days or week, you can now use your phone all across the region”. She added.

“If you go to a country and you realise that by switching on your phone you are going to be charged highly, you are likely to switch it off,” said Ms Kaggwa. “But if you are part of ONA, that means that you are less worried about receiving and making calls and therefore an additional revenue that will come from the fact that you will accept to use communication in that period.” she Said.

Amb. Richard Kabonero, the National Coordinator of Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIPs) said that the harmonization of calling rates will support and facilitate the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

He said that ONA framework is just one of the many projects under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects that seeks to enhance competition, improved access to cost effective and secures ICT services.

Amb. Kabonero explained that NCIPs seek to speed up the integration of regional economies but also drastically cut the cost of doing businesses by positioning the region as a leading investment destination.

Officials from ICT sector in east Africa member states
Image: Royal way media team

“We've made progress on the roaming charges plus the cost of communication, but we are not satisfied. We think there should be integration of payment systems in other areas,” Amb. Kabonero said during an interview.

He said that EAC countries made a joint commitment in 2014 to create an ONA for the four economies of Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

Achieving a one area network will facilitate trade within the region through cheap calling rates.

Key among other projects under the NCIPs includes infrastructure, power generation and transmission and ICT.

“Next month we have a very important meeting on extending the Standard Gauge Railway from Naivasha to Malaba and Malaba to Kampala and all the way to the boarder of Rwanda,” he explained.

The European Union is facilitating the revival of Northern Corridor Integration Projects to help the region cut the cost of doing business.