Roaming for neighbours: prices to go down
Heads of antimonopoly agencies of Eurasian Economic Union member states discuss lowering international communication tariffs, at recent Brest meeting
All agree that the situation concerning roaming charges needs correction. Expensive international calls affect around 26m people across Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, with subscribers paying around 5 cents per minute within their own network but, on crossing the border, up to $1.50. This is deterring people from travelling, and from making business contacts. With this in mind, the Eurasian Economic Union’s antimonopoly agencies have recommended that mobile communication operators keep to ‘principles of fair roaming’. Tariffs should be gradually and voluntarily cut, as they were within the European Union — which has faced similar problems in the past. After a special directive was adopted, EU communications became ‘fair’.
Nurlan Aldabergenov, a member of the Board and the Minister in charge of Competition and Antitrust Regulation, within the Eurasian Economic Commission, notes that reduced tariffs aim to improve public welfare. He underlines, “We’ve come to the conclusion that roaming charges are a factor influencing citizens’ comfort. We are now making all possible efforts to solve this problem. However, we know that communication tariffs won’t be without charge.”
The introduction of fair roaming principles within the Eurasian Economic Union should save residents of the border areas of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan at least 1.5bn Russian Roubles. Naturally, people will then spend the money in other ways. Meanwhile, experts believe that mobile operators should actually enjoy greater profits, owing to increased traffic as a result of lowered tariffs: generating up to 22.7bn Russian Roubles.
Antimonopoly agencies will continue their vigilance, as the Brest meeting confirmed. Several video-conferences are to be held, including with representatives of mobile operators, and a meeting is planned in Moscow for those interested in settling the problem.
Operators have been asked to prepare plans for stage-by-stage reduction of tariffs. Of course, it would be much easier if the problem affected only one country. However, major companies in five states are involved. With this in mind, operators may initially need to ensure ‘fair approaches’ in their national legislation — introducing corrections as necessary.
By Artem Kiryanov