New bid to cut roaming charges
A key telecommunications meeting has adopted a recommendation to tackle the high prices mobile phone users pay for international mobile roaming within the Arab region.
The plenary meeting of the Arab Regulators Network (Aregnet) decided to present the recommendation to the Council of Arab Ministers of Telecommunications and Information Technology at its meeting in June.
The meeting, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, was attended by high-level representatives of telecommunications regulatory authorities from 15 Arab countries.
It was chaired by the current Aregnet presidency - the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of Bahrain.
As a precursor to the plenary meeting, the mobile industry, represented by senior representatives of 13 regional mobile companies supported by the GSM Association, presented to the Arab regulators a number of proposed principles designed to address the high prices associated with roaming and consumer awareness of these charges.
The GSM Association also promised to provide a more detailed proposal to Aregnet by April 24.
However, Arab regulators felt that the principles, proposed by the industry, are not sufficient to satisfactorily solve the problem of the unduly high prices for international mobile roaming.
"The Arab regulators, having considered the proposed self-regulatory principles presented by the mobile industry, believe that the industry has still some way to go in achieving the expectations of the Arab regulators and consequently the level of benefits to be passed to the consumer," Aregnet president and TRA general director Alan Horne said.
"Therefore, we have agreed on a set of recommendations, to be submitted to the Council of Arab Ministers of Telecommunications and Information Technology, to regulate roaming charges and reduce prices paid by consumers to more reasonable levels.
"However, we leave the door open for the industry to come back to us with broader reaching and more detailed proposals and measures, which could provide significant tangible benefits to the consumers within a reasonable timeframe."
The Aregnet provides for a glide path in the reduction of roaming charges over a three-year period.
Implementation of the recommendation would lead to 36 per cent decrease in average roaming rates for consumers in the third year of regulation.