Arusha – Mobile phone users will wait longer for lower calling rates within East Africa after the late inclusion of Tanzania and Burundi into talks, which has delayed the introduction of the cheaper tariffs by nine months to June.
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda had agreed to cap the maximum roaming charges in the three states at about Rwf70.5 ($0.10) per minute beginning this month, which had the potential to significantly reduce the cost of doing business in the region. South Sudan was set to sign the agreement later in the year.
Calling Uganda or Rwanda from Kenya currently costs more than calling Asia or the US, with the high tariffs being caused partly by taxes. Tanzania and Burundi were not part of the earlier deal because they had missed a number of talks that led to the pact.
The Communication Authority (CA) of Kenya told the Business Daily that Tanzania and Burundi have now joined the other four in the quest for a One Area Network during a meeting of regional regulatory bodies in Arusha last week.
“When agreement is implemented the cost of making calls would come down in all member states of the East Africa Community,” said Francis Wangusi, the director general of CA.
The Arusha meeting gave a deadline of December 31 for Tanzania and Burundi to carry a study on the rate they would want applicable. There after another meeting will be set where all the six states will hammer an agreement.
“We expect the implementation of the agreed rates to be implemented in June 2015,” Wangusi added.
In June 2013, Uganda introduced Ksh7 (about Rwf54.6) levy on calls while Tanzania introduced a Ksh10 (about Rwf78) levy. Rwanda charges Ksh9 (about Rwf70.2) and Burundi Kh13 (about Rwf101.4). This means any calls made when roaming or directly calling from the country are subjected to the taxes.
Kenya is the only East Africa state that does not levy any taxes on cross-border calls and wants a common termination tariff introduced.