Roaming fees have never been cheap for many customers across the globe, more so for groups that travel within Africa, or have their homes in the continent.
These fees are high because they involve using the network infrastructure of another service provider in a foreign country, which requires additional costs to establish the connection and maintain it.
The foreign network provider charges the home network provider for using their network, and the home network provider, in turn, passes on the cost to their customers who use roaming services.
The lack of competition in the roaming market, coupled with the absence of regulatory oversight, has mostly led to higher prices for roaming services.
Now, in a new development revealed this week, ICT regulators in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) are reportedly seeking to reduce roaming fees.
As part of this effort, COMESA is working to align the roaming networks of at least 29 African countries with other regional blocs by next year.
Carriers make agreements to connect their customers across different geographical areas, and subscribers typically pay higher fees when using services outside their home markets.
The plan by COMESA to align roaming networks across multiple African countries aims to promote competition and improve access to cost-effective and secure ICT services through a harmonized regional policy and regulatory framework.
Furthermore, stakeholders have identified the uneven and fragmented implementation of policy and regulatory frameworks as major challenges in promoting competitive markets among member states.
Also, the COMESA plan will be implemented through the EGEE-ICT program, an eight-million-Euro initiative funded by the European Union to enhance governance and enable a favourable environment in the ICT sector.
Safaricom offers select bundles that can be used while roaming in Ghana, South Africa, the Netherlands, and China. The bundles are priced at KES 225 for 20MB data, KES 1,100 for 100MB data valid for 7 days, and KES 5,200 for 500MB data valid for 30 days.
Safaricom also offers the One Network Area Rates service to its customers in Uganda, Rwanda, and South Sudan, which allows them to receive calls for free on all partner networks. This service helps customers stay connected with their loved ones and professional network even while traveling.
Airtel Kenya equally provides data roaming plans that allow both Pre-Paid and Post-Paid customers to “Roam like Home” in 16 destinations, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, and Zambia. The simplified data plans offer 10GB for KES 1100 and 20GB for KES 2100, both valid for 30 days.