Written by 7:15 pm Travel

Fixed roaming rates for regional travel becoming reality

The best way has finally been paved for residents of Barbados and the remaining of the Caribbean to pay a set rate for roaming after they use their mobile phones when travelling throughout the region.

And while telecoms firms are yet to point what their new roaming rates will likely be, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has put them on notice that they will likely be monitored to make sure consumers are literally reaping the advantages.

On Wednesday, telecommunications firms Digicel and Cable & Wireless, which trades within the region as FLOW, and Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell, who has responsibility for telecommunications throughout the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), signed the Declaration of St George’s Towards the Reduction of Intra-CARICOM Roaming Charges, paving the best way for new fixed roaming charges to grow to be a reality.

“We wish our residents to feel it where it matters – of their pockets. We are going to closely monitor adherence to the commitments made today and follow through. We encourage consumer groups to accomplish that as well,” said Prime Minister Mottley.

“We’re, after all, prepared to take whatever motion is obligatory to be certain that from today, our residents can enjoy broader services and lower, more predictable, and capped costs as we move towards that coveted single space and, indeed, my great dream – the elimination of roaming charges for our residents within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),” she added.

Under the Declaration, signed during a ceremony in Grenada, the parties have agreed on an implementation timeframe between the second and third quarter of this yr to make the new rates a reality, bearing in mind the technical elements and public awareness campaigns to happen.

They’ve also agreed to cooperate on the event of a roadmap for the planned CARICOM single ICT space.

Prime Minister Mottley, who attended the signing virtually, stressed the necessity to eliminate roaming charges.

“In Europe, they’ve done it and the truth is, our residents would love to roam as in the event that they were home because they’re at home within the Caribbean Community. That is our single domestic space.

“We accept that the primary stage of that journey is the commitment signed here by the telecoms providers offering new roaming arrangements where the costs are substantially lower and, more importantly, capped at reasonable levels which can be monthly commitments that the majority CARICOM residents can easily and equally afford,” said Mottley.

It was on the thirty first CARICOM Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government in Bridgetown in February 2020 that the Barbadian leader signalled that a single roaming rate was within the making. This was followed by several discussions with the telecoms providers, and in July last yr, those negotiations were concluded.

Mottley said the subsequent step was to create a “single regulatory space” to make sure the costs for telecoms services weren’t exorbitant, adding that she hoped the framework for this is able to be in place inside the subsequent 12 to 18 months.

“If we will do that, then we’ll add significantly to the competitiveness of the region and it becomes even all of the more critical given the likely increase in the costs of fossil fuels that we are going to face because of this of the geopolitical tensions on the planet,” she said.

Vice President for the South Caribbean at Cable & Wireless Communications Kurleigh Prescod said the corporate will likely be rolling out its campaign soon and the new single rate must be in place “by the newest March 31”.

Pointing to C&W’s commitment to the region, he said company officials understood and appreciated the importance of “a real Caribbean single market with cost-effective and reliable connections at its heart”.

“We at Cable and Wireless are, due to this fact, pleased to share that now we have taken this primary transformational step to offer our valued CARICOM customers with significantly reduced roaming packages across the region, which deliver easy, consistent and transparent rates, and overall reduction in customer charges and eliminate the shock of receiving exorbitant bills. We are going to start to advertise these in our markets in the approaching weeks and months,” said Prescod.

Meanwhile, Digicel’s Director of Government Affairs Kieran Mulvey described the signing of the agreement as a really significant one for the region, noting that Digicel also hoped to have its new roaming rates in place inside a month.

“Today represents a big initial milestone on the roadway towards achieving a single ICT Caribbean space that’s so vitally essential not only for the social elements of the economy and peoples of the Caribbean, but for his or her economic development as well,” said Mulvey.

Prime Minister Mitchell said the agreement signalled the start of new opportunities for the region.

Nonetheless, he cautioned that “our eyes are set firmly on the final word goal, which is to attain total elimination of roaming charges throughout your entire CARICOM family”.

He said he believed the reduced charges will help to drive digital commerce, regional integration and economic development, and could have a greater impact once total elimination was achieved.

The Grenadian leader is anticipated to offer an in depth update to CARICOM Heads of Governments in Belize next week and begin discussions on the whole elimination of roaming charges.
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