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ICASA pushes for lower international call rates

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The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is pushing for telecom operators in that country to use the principle of reciprocity to bring down international call termination rates, so the citizens can pay much less for both inbound and outbound international calls.

Currently, local interconnect (termination) rates in South Africa is between US$0.004 and US$0.006 while, international call terminating in that country costs between US$.11 and US$0.17 depending on which network one is on.

Check rates in the table below: 

Operator

Termination rate for local calls

Termination rate for international calls

% difference

Telkom (fixed)

R0.06 ($0.004)

R1.64 ($0.11)

2 633%

Vodacom

R0.09 ($0.006)

R2.60 ($0.17)

2 788%

MTN

R0.09 ($0.006)

R2.49 ($0.16)

2 666%

Ghana 

It is important to note that the unregulated rates in South Africa are still lower than the regulated US$0.19 floor prices for inbound international calls terminating in Ghana.

Industry players in Ghana have, for many years, been pushing for the regulator, National Communications Authority (NCA) to deregulate the termination rates and allow market forces to determine the prices, but the regulator has simply refused.

In South Africa, ICASA is conducting a new ‘cost modelling exercise’ with regards to voice call termination rates with the view to introducing curbs the termination of calls from outside of South Africa, something the operators have welcomed because of the obvious benefits.

The result of that initiative is likely to be cheaper overseas calls and much-reduced phone fraud knowns as SIM Box fraud, says the Association representing over 200 Internet Service Providers (ISPs), many of which provide voice services as well.

The huge differential between local call interconnect rate and international call termination rates is the single thing that fuels SIM Box fraud, where fraudsters present international calls as local calls by channelling them through call bypass devices knowns as SIM Boxes.

So, ICASA is pushing for the use of the principle of reciprocity so the calls coming from outside into South Africa are terminated at a cheaper rates, then calls from South Africa to abroad will also be terminated at a cheaper rate, making international call rates cheaper fro South Africans.

For example, calls to mobile numbers in Europe are typically between R2.00 ($0.13) and R22.00 ($1.42) per minute, however, once reciprocity provisions come into place, these could drop to as low as R0.20 ($0.01) per minute.

ICASA has therefore resolved to do a detailed investigation into rates for terminating international calls, indicating that it will require operators to use the principle of reciprocity to negotiate down international termination rates.

The regulator believes that local and international termination rates should both be at similar levels, as ICASA Councillor Dr. Charley Lewis has said, “The international termination rates charged by local licensees may not be less than the domestic regulated termination rate or higher than the international termination rate offered by their counterpart – meaning that the difference between domestic termination rates and international termination rates must be fair and reasonable.”

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