Nº 10 2012 > Global Symposium for Regulators | Special report
International mobile roaming in a broadband economy
The session on international mobile roaming, moderated by Amr Badawi, Executive President of Egypt’s National Telecom Regulatory Authority, discussed: how to handle termination of voice and mobile data communications in an always-on borderless society; business models for roaming and the need for cross-border delivery; the impact on consumers; the role of regulators and what regulatory approaches need to be adopted; and how to balance regulation with commercial solutions.
Dimitri Ypsilanti, Senior ICT Expert and author of the GSR discussion paper on “International roaming services: a review of best practice policies”, said that international and regional bodies are putting more emphasis on roaming because of the increasing penetration rate of mobile subscribers requesting both voice and data services. Many operators have special roaming packages for tourists but no mobile operator informs consumers of roaming prices when they subscribe to a contract. One solution could be to force operators to unlock mobile phones to allow consumers to buy foreign SIM cards while travelling. Network neutrality and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are other solutions. The quickest way forward would be via bilateral agreements.
Saddig Al Tayeb, Assistant Deputy Governor for Competition Affairs, Communication and Information Technology Commission, Saudi Arabia, said that the six Gulf countries are collaborating on roaming. Gulf citizens know in advance how much they will pay for each phone call throughout the region. This has brought 33 per cent savings to consumers and now negotiations are starting on data tariffs.
Dr Badawi noted general agreement on the need for transparent roaming tariffs, recognizing that high roaming costs are even more problematic with data roaming.