LIRNEasia calls for reduction in intra-SAARC telecom call rates

Telecom Lead India: Intra-SAARC telecom call rates must
be lower than for calls to points outside SAARC.  Roaming within the
region should be cheaper and less opaque than outside the region.  Both
are not so, despite some improvements since 2008, according to LIRNEasia.

Calls between member countries were often much more
expensive than making calls to nations much further away such as the United
States or the United Kingdom. There was more transparency in Europe where the
EU has brought in laws to slash communication rates within the region,” said
LIRNEasia research manager Shazna Zuhyle.

A SAARC citizen may pay between $0.31 and $3.29 to make a
local call while roaming within the region. The highest cost is paid by
Maldivian roaming in number of SAARC countries, and the lowest is for an Indian
roaming in Maldives. Using a local pre-paid SIM from the visiting country to
make a local off-net call is more cost effective. Instead of $3.29, the
Maldivian roaming in Bangladesh would have to pay only $0.01, 345 times less
than the roaming tariff.


Some intra-SAARC international direct dial (IDD) tariffs
were lowered in response to the 15th SAARC Summit directive. However none of
the countries have a flat rate for their regional partners. Overall calling
Maldives is high for both SAARC fixed line and mobile users. There are further
instances where some countries (e.g. India) are favored over others and are
offered better rates. Calling India from Sri Lanka costs $0.03 for fixed and
$0.05 for mobile (the lowest in the region).


Even with these inconsistencies, it is still considerably
cheaper for a user to make an international voice call home as opposed to a
roaming call home. As illustrated in the figure below, an Indian user may pay
up to 10.75 times more to make a call home, while roaming.




Figure 1: An Indian calling home – Roaming vs.
International Voice (Mobile)


Inter-operator discounts offer cost effective schemes for
roamers. However, it is subject to selection and availability of the preferred
network. However, users are often unaware of how to use roaming efficiently;
selecting preferred (discounted) networks while roaming for instance, which
fuels pertinent issues such as bill shock. The emphasis should be on ensuring
transparency and consistency in pricing.

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