In their defence, operators told the East African Communications Organisation (EACO) Congress they were doing all they could to deal with the problem, citing powerhouses such as Airtel, Vodacom and MTN East Africa who have products that are specifically tailored to deal with the issues of cost, transparency and bill shock to subscribers.
Additionally, the operators said that roaming is a relatively young product which still has much opportunity to grow and therefore needs support.
“Price regulation should be the last resort because as much as regulation will help users in the short term, it will hamper competition and innovation in the long term,” said Rose Ngeshu of Essar Telecom.
The telecoms through Safaricom’s Macrin Abuka also sought to clarify that roaming is treated as a premium product, which is why its charges were so high, and given that it only affects two per cent of subscribers regulation would make little sense.
They were also of the opinion that instead of having a flat rate, regulators should let operators commit to enhancing consumer awareness and focus instead on addressing barriers hindering the roaming service, such as increased taxation.