Uganda’s telecom companies are optimistic about better earnings from the recently launched One Network Area due to the fast growing usage of their roaming services and rising subscriber numbers.
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Otaremwa Otuhumurize, Uganda Telecom’s Roaming, Interconnection & International Carriers Director, noted that the company is currently focused on stimulating usage of the network by roaming customers with lower calling rates with eyes on better revenue and profit for the company in the long run.
Under the framework agreement, Uganda Telecom offers the lowest calling rates (shs320 per minute) to one network member states including; Rwanda, Kenya, and South Sudan while its competitors charge shs330 per minute.
“Our goal right now is to increase volumes on the One Network Agreement so that we benefit from increased activity on our network as opposed to offering services at high prices with low activity.
For now, the communications commissions from the various East Africa states need to align the One Network Area and close up any loopholes that need to be closed for the success of this initiative,” Mr. Otuhumurize said.
Roaming calls to one network for MTN, Airtel and Uganda Telecom are at a standard shs350 per minute, calls back home by the roamer on UTL and Airtel are shs350 per minute while MTN charges shs360 per minute.
No fee is charged for receiving calls while roaming across the three networks. International calls to Rwanda, Kenya and South Sudan across UTL cost shs320 per minute while MTN and Airtel each charge shs330 per minute.
The reduction in roaming rates follows the announcement of the One Network Area Agreement by the East Africa heads of state in December 2014.
Business people operating in the northern corridor route have responded positively to the initiative by the East Africa heads of state and this has been noted by through the increased traffic in cross border calls.
“At the moment, South Sudan and Kenya are the most active markets given the high level of business activity between people in the two countries and Uganda. As such, majority of the traffic is to Kenya followed by South Sudan. With Uganda Telecom, the volume of outgoing calls to Kenya have doubled since the launch of the ONA. Specifically traffic termination to roamers has tremendously increased by more than 200% because roaming sub charges are not charged for receiving calls,” he said.
The East Africa heads of state together with telecom operators are expected to hold a session for the One Network Area early in March in Rwanda to review the initiative.
Last year, the heads of state agreed that in order to make EAC a success, the One Network Agreement had to be taken into effect.
To effect the agreement, decided to waive excise duty on international incoming calls from and to all member states within the ONA to make them more affordable.
For example Kenya calling Uganda was initially regarded as an international call but with ONA, it’s now going to be charged as a local call.