Regional telecommunications regulators have decided to examine the implementation of the One Network Area (ONA) framework for roaming charges, addressing emerging issues related to its execution.
The One Network Area aims to provide more affordable cross-border calling rates across the region by harmonizing roaming charges. This initiative promises to make communication easier and less expensive, ultimately promoting regional business activities.
This decision was made during a two-day meeting of Heads of Communications Regulatory Authorities held in Kigali, Rwanda, from September 14 to 15.
Dr. Aminah Zawedde, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda and chair of the ICT Infrastructure Development Cluster under the Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIP), stated that the meeting agreed to engage with telecom operators to address emerging challenges.
“We have agreed to collaborate with operators in our countries to understand their experiences with the ONA framework,” Dr. Zawedde stated at the conclusion of the summit held at the Four Points Hotel.
Dr. Zawedde emphasized that any operator feedback would not alter the core objective of the framework, which is to ensure that recipients of roaming calls within the region are not charged. The focus is on ensuring seamless and competitive operations among operators in the region.
All member countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda, have been implementing the framework, with some facing challenges, according to Dr. Zawedde.
Dr. Zawedde further explained, “If one country reports challenges, it’s possible that other countries are also encountering difficulties. Instead of addressing these challenges individually, we aim to tackle them collectively as a region to provide a level playing field for all operators.”
Eng. Irene Kaggwa-Sewankambo, Executive Director of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), noted that Uganda has fully implemented the ONA framework. She highlighted the substantial reduction in roaming calling rates and the increased regional traffic and trade as significant achievements.
The ONA framework has allowed students and traders to move freely within the region without the need for new SIM cards in each country, thereby promoting communication and trade.
The meeting also agreed to review the framework due to variations in tax policies and other issues, including gray traffic, which can affect call quality and regional revenue.
ONA requires mobile network operators to renegotiate and reduce wholesale tariffs, waive excise taxes and surcharges on incoming voice traffic, and establish price caps on outbound ONA traffic.
Amb. Richard Kabonero, the National Coordinator of Northern Corridor Integration Projects (NCIPs), highlighted that harmonizing calling rates would support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
He emphasized that the ONA framework is one of many projects under NCIPs aimed at enhancing competition, improving access to cost-effective services, and securing ICT services. These projects seek to promote regional economic integration and reduce the cost of doing business, positioning the region as an attractive investment destination.
Amb. Kabonero mentioned that the European Union is supporting the revival of Northern Corridor Integration Projects to help reduce the cost of doing business in the region.