[pullquote]Safaricom charges Kshs 225,000 to upload a single picture from South Africa[/pullquote]
Europe will likely ban mobile phone networks from imposing roaming levies on customers abroad. According to a statement by Neelie Kroes, the commission vice president and spokesperson for digital affairs who is behind the legislation, Europe will review the legislation by September 11th and probably enact it within the year. The proposed legislation has however faced stern opposition from the largest network such as Orange, Vodafone and Telefónica arguing that they will lose up to 5.9 billion euros a year if the legislation is passed.
The telecos could indeed lose billions of euros if they are barred from imposing roaming fees. I have never bothered to check roaming fees as whenever I travel I ensure that I use destination’s networks for data and calls. My local line is almost always off. But after seeing the news flash about Europe’s intention to ban roaming fees, I decided to have a look at what Safaricom charges Kenyans who travel to South Africa, as South Africa is one of the most preferred destination for Kenyans. Amazingly, Safaricom charges Kshs. 450 per kilobyte of data i.e. 4.5 cents per byte (see image below). That means customers who for one reason or another must use Safaricom to access let’s say 5MB worth of data will be charged a whooping Kshs. 225,000. 5MB of data is that picture you took with your HD capable camera phone immediately you landed at O.R. Tambo International Airport and shared on Facebook.
If the legislation is enacted, European carriers will have to recover the lost revues by increasing normal billing fees to everyone, such that those who do not travel will bear the cost of flattening the call rates across Europe. But this need not be the case. The legislation should be enacted such that the normal billing rates remain within the current limits, for I do not think there is any significant operations costs incurred by the telecos for offering roaming services.
I doubt if there is anyone paying the superfluous roaming fees especially on data when every consumer will rationally opt for cheaper alternatives available at the destination. Since the networks are already losing billions of euros for services not used, the other billions lost by standardizing rates will even out when travelers find it rational to continue using their local lines.
I hope that the legislation proposed in Europe will be implemented and success in that region used to extent similar legislation elsewhere.
For now, people should subscribe to VoIP services like Skype and Hangout for more calls both locally and Internationally. Mobile service providers are reaping billions of shillings in profits at the expense of poor customers and this can only be reduced if free voice services like Skype etc are allowed to offer formidable competition.