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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Liberia, Ghana in Talks to Implement Free Roaming to Reduce Call Cost

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The Liberian and Ghanaian telecommunications regulatory bodies have started discussions about free roaming between the two countries.

According to the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), this development is the first step towards implementing a system that will charge local rates for mobile phone users in both countries while they visit.

If the countries reach an agreement, the roaming arrangement will necessitate commercial solutions from carriers, allowing for cost-effective implementation of agreements per the ECOWAS regulation.

In 2020, the LTA issued an order urging the country’s mobile network operators to implement the ECOWAS regulations. Meanwhile, it has experienced setbacks due to slow activation and a lack of momentum in initiating bilateral engagements.

ECOWAS issued roaming regulations within the community’s public mobile communication networks to standardize roaming activities in 2017.

Meanwhile, the challenges faced over time that have slowed implementation include the lack of direct links between telecom operators, high call termination rates, and fraud.

While acknowledging this development, Angela Cassell Bush, Acting International Gateway Systems Commissioner, stated that Liberia anticipates further engagements and discussions with other ECOWAS member countries to collaborate on zero-cost roaming.

report shows that most subscribers calling between Liberia and Ghana rely on Internet-based apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Telegram, which require having a smartphone and a data plan.

Also, travellers between the two countries must obtain a local SIM card. Once they have the local SIM, they can either purchase voice credits for calls or activate data for internet calls using their original phone number.

Following ECOWAS’s regulation, many African countries have attempted to implement free roaming. In an interview with Aliyu Yusuf Aboki, Executive Secretary of the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA), he revealed that 13 ECOWAS member states have amended their telecom legislation to exempt roaming surcharges.

Ghana and Benin agreed in April 2024 to implement free roaming to reduce communication costs for citizens travelling between the two countries. In the same month, Niger and Togo announced plans to sign a partnership agreement for bilateral free-roaming.

In October 2023, Benin and Togo signed a MoU to enable free international mobile network roaming between the two countries.

Abdullah Ajibade

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