Cape Town - If there is one thing travellers want more than anything else it is for roaming and data usage rates while travelling to be more affordable.
SADC's ministers of communication and ICT have made a move in the right direction while meeting in Durban, pushing for regulation that will reduce roaming costs for residents of Southern Africa.
Roaming costs have always been sky-high for South Africans, but it is especially a hindrance when just popping over to a neighbouring country for work or pleasure.
At the meeting, SADC officials have again called for operators to start reducing these costs when travelling in Southern Africa, as it is believed it will boost economic development and movement among the countries, according to SANews.
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Loopholes in regulations have led to widespread exorbitant fees, with users paying between R5 - R300 per MB on data roaming and even up to R50 a minute for calls, depending on which provider you use and what country you're in. Ministers across SADC want to see these prices slashed by up to 30% through their "roam like at home" initiative signed in 2007.
Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said that this expands to cost of communication in general, including issues of digitisation and internet access in SADC countries. “We live in a society where too many of our citizens are still denied access to information and benefits. Despite the good progress we have made as a region, there are still challenges in rural and township areas,” she said.
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ICASA Councillor Peter Zimri believes cutting costs is crucial for development in South Africa. "For us as South Africa, achieving low roaming charging for calls is important not only for attracting visitors to our country but it’s also important for cross border trade. What we have established in this project is that there are areas where they have dropped the costs substantially by up to 60% on certain routes."
He adds that where these charges have dropped, there has been a notable increase in traffic, and they would like to spread this trend to all the SADC countries.
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When travelling across borders in Southern Africa, here are a few tips to help you keep your roaming costs down:
- Before your trip, check on your provider's website what costs you might incur while roaming. It's important to note that each country may have different charges.
- You can get different roaming services, like SMS-only roaming, that keeps you connected with lower costs, so familiarise yourself with your operator's different options.
- Before you leave South Africa, you need to activate your chosen roaming service. It's difficult to activate once you're already in a different country.
- If you're travelling in places like Lesotho or Swaziland, or near a South African border, check in you network settings and switch to manual. This lets you force your phone to stay on your SA network provider if there's signal.
- When not using your phone and if you don't need to be in contact with anyone, the safest is to switch to flight mode and use WiFi hotspots where you can.
- Some countries have very cheap mobile rates, so you can also just buy a local SIM card for your trip and get prepaid airtime.
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