Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) hosted the East African Communications Organization (EACO) 3 day Working Group (WG) 6 meeting. The 3-day meeting started on 31st October 2022 at the UCC head office in Bugoloobi. WG6 is a technical committee that works towards harmonizing and sharing country experiences on issues pertaining to Telecommunications numbering resources, IP addressing, Service Pricing, and Industry Analysis.
EACO was established in 2012, as a regional autonomous organization with international legal personality and is headquartered in Kigali Rwanda. EACO brings together national ICT regulators, operators, services providers in the telecommunication, broadcasting and postal sub-sectors, ICT training institutions and other stakeholders in the communication sector within Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The broad objective of EACO is to strengthen and promote cooperation among the EAC Countries in the development and provision of postal, telecommunication and broadcasting services in East Africa.
The WG6 Meeting has had both physical and virtual participation; with representation from 5 East African Countries including Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and Uganda.
Key issues on the agenda included:
Harmonization of access to emergency and common user service codes – These service codes are the short codes that are used in the region to easily access emergency response, distress services and common user services. Examples of these include Customers Service 100, Recharge 130, Check Balance 131, Surface and Marine transport reporting services 121, Emergency Communication Services for Lake Victoria and other water bodies 110. Harmonizing these codes across the region greatly contributes to enhancing customer experiences as they do not need to know the codes used in the different countries for those services within the region and this further enhances regional integration.
Strategies to mitigate unintentional Roaming using network color codes for telecom sites near international borders (≤ 35 KM). Un intentional roaming happens when the consumers’ phone is within coverage and terminates calls through a network in a neighboring country. This normally results into much higher calling rates and in certain cases failure to use local voice bundles.
Implementation of the network color codes across the region is gradually averting this consumer challenge and improving customer experience in areas near international borders. Because the network color codes only work with 2G networks, some of the ongoing work under WG6 is sharing country experiences on interventions that can address unintentional roaming across all telecom generations (3G, 4G and others).
It has been acknowledged that some of the advanced solutions to unintentional roaming; like enhanced consumer awareness on how to manage this at device level are not dependent on the numbering resources therefore creating ambiguity in alignment to the scope of the mandate of the WG6.
Sharing experiences and strategies on Metering and Billing assurance frameworks. Over the last 10 years, the telecom market in the region has experienced commendable growth in products, service offerings and their corresponding pricing frameworks. What used to be singular per minute offers have morphed into aggregated product offerings that are presented as combos/ bundles with varying billing schemes.
While this is commendable, it has presented new challenges on the side of consumer protection and assurance for the regulators. Regulators are not in position to provide assurance to last mile consumers on the veracity of combo billing schemes. In Uganda we have often heard about the famous “Gonya” and claims of depletion of data and voice bundles or minutes. This reality demands for the regulators in the region to undertake collaborative research and solutions towards strengthening assurance to consumers about the integrity of billing and metering plans.
Outcomes of other international meetings including ITU Plenipotentiary Conference 2022, World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly (WTSA) 2022, and the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) 2022. The resolution-based meetings have resolves and tiered instructions for member states, regions, and the ITU secretariat on different operational and economic aspects of telecommunication services. As part of its agenda, WG6 reviewes these outcomes and makes recommendations to the EAC members on how they can be implemented both at country and regional level.
Other agenda items included discussions on:
1. Costing methodologies for regulated basic postal services
2. Competition Issues within the Communication Sector
3. OTTs and their impact on regulation
4. Mergers and acquisitions in the communications sector
5. Spectrum Pricing Framework
6. Implementation of a border roaming management tool
7. Input to the EACO strategic objectives and the future works of the working Group.
Under the astute leadership of Eng. Susan Nakanwagi of UCC, WG 6 concluded its work with commendable outcomes and implementation strategies for the different initiatives under the working group.
EACO is one of the technical memberships to which Uganda Communications Commission subscribes to in line with executing its mandate