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EAC nears broadband sharing policy

East African Community (EAC) residents stand to benefit from lower calling costs following new proposals to standardise the pricing of telecommunication services across the region.

The draft regulations are an attempt by Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and Tanzania to establish a regional policy to guide service providers and regulators in developing tariffs for cross-border interconnection services.

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“Traditionally, interconnection in telecommunications has been set at the telephone services level,” read part the proposals in the East African Community Interconnections Regulations, 2017 in part.

“This worked well for the telephony environment but began to experience problems with the advent of new services and next-generation networks that have different needs for interconnection.”

Interconnection agreements between service providers in the recent past have largely been unregulated, with virtually all of them defined as little more than “handshake deals.”

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The EAC says this exposes smaller Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to unfair pricing while giving larger ones the leeway to assert their market dominance.

It also provides little recourse for dispute resolution that may be common in network sharing deals. The proposed regulations facilitate the creation of interconnection agreements between service providers with transparent and standardised pricing regardless of the ISPs’ country of origin.

The regulations are expected to benefit service providers in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. These land-locked countries have lesser developed telecommunication markets compared to Kenya.

ISPs are forced to rely on secondary connections to supply broadband from landing stations in the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania.

This is said to make Internet charges at both wholesale and retail markets more expensive in the four landlocked countries compared to Kenya and Tanzania.

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