A pilot exercise by regional member states to reduce roaming tariffs as a means through which to promote regional trade and partnerships under the SADC Home and Away Roaming (SHAR) initiative is underway.
This is the implementation stage of the SHAR project which has been okayed by regional Ministerial heads of ICTs recently and the guidelines adopted at the Communications Regulations Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) in March 2015. In terms of regulatory impact, the WTO as way back as 2010 conducted an assessment and made its recommendations to the CRASA.
The project is a noble initiative though its implementation is very generous in terms of completion time. Despite all the time taken to reach implementation, a further three years has been allowed for all SADC members to have joined and set tariffs to an agreed level.
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While we can’t take away this development, I am not sure that the region is also looking at the parallel data costs. It is true that voice consumption is reducing and a lot of MNOs are hitting hard times with the reduced revenue.
As alternatives, subscribers locally have been using Over The Top Services like Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook for video and voice calling in addition to VoIP services by internet providers like ZOL. Operators have taken a knock of up to 40% in revenues due to these disruptive services. In that vein, this discussion is indeed coming in late and possibly inadequate in terms of data roaming.
Here are current averages of the prepaid roaming tariffs of the operators in the four participating countries Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. All prices are in US cents.