Int'l mobile roaming charges in the SAARC to get lowered

International mobile roaming lets users of a country use the SIM card or mobile services one has been using in their country to freely use when traveling to other countries without the need to replace SIM cards or mobile services. As of now, Nepalis telco operators – Nepal Telecom & Ncell provides international roaming on their services, with offers on both bilateral roaming agreements with the operator of roaming countries and unilateral roaming agreements of the telcos here in Nepal. As of now international roaming in Nepal is way much costly, all calls are charged equivalent in the USD. The same applies to SAARC state countries – they all have high incurring int’l roaming charges.

International Mobile Roaming (IMR) let users roaming abroad with their national mobile carrier, Img by ITU
International Mobile Roaming (IMR) let users roaming abroad with their national mobile carrier, Img by ITU

However, recently held South Asian Telecommunication Regulators’ Council (SATRC) 18th meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan has decided to lower the international roaming charges borne by or within the SAARC nations. The council has also proposed the roaming facilities should be brought under the rights of the national authority of the country rather than the individual telco service providers.

The South Asian Telecommunication Regulators’ Council (SATRC) is responsible for the discussion and co-ordination of all issues relating to regulations in telecommunications which are of common interest to the Telecommunication Regulators of the South Asian countries. SATRC looks after radio frequency co-ordination, standards, regulatory trends and issues, strategies for telecommunication development and telecommunications related international affairs. The council also identified and promotes areas of potential co-operation in telecommunications among South Asian countries and shall facilitate the exchange of information in these areas thru activities as seminars, training and workshops.

In the present scenario, the mobile service operators in the SAARC region determine the int’l roaming based on their bilateral and/or unilateral agreements with the individual operators in the other countries – which is clearly not uniform and doesn’t cover all operators while roaming. This deadlock of roaming is till then outside the scope of SATRC. The charges, thereof, are determined by the individual operators leading to different roaming charges even in a single country under roaming.

Now that, SATRC have proposed two important int’l roaming decisions:

  • Int’l roaming charges / rates to be determined by the Telco authority of the country, rather than individual service provider or operator.
  • Int’l roaming in the SAARC region to be unified under the SATRC provision.

Currently, Int’l mobile roaming charges from Nepal are much expensive, so that Nepalis traveling abroad cannot carry or use Nepal’s SIM cards for calling back home. Nepal Telecom (NT) – the state owned telco has roaming facilities with 86 nations while Ncell – the private telco with few more nation.

SATRC is working to address this need of international mobile roaming in the South Asian countries, which was also addressed by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Nepal.

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