MTN has responded to media reports about outrageous cell phone roaming charges – aiming to make the charges more transparent to South African users.
A statement from the company points out that, while the data charges from foreign networks are extremely high, charges to South African subscribers are calculated at the foreign network charge multiplied by the prevailing exchange rate plus a minimal markup and VAT.
The statement reads:
"The recently announced EU legislation regarding roaming charges does not impact South African subscribers but only impacts subscribers from one EU country roaming in another EU country. Having said that, the industry acknowledges that internationally there are instances of some operators recouping their lost revenues as a result of the recent EU legislation with price increases for other wholesale roaming charges, notably:
* Changing the charging interval period from per second to per minute.
* Increasing wholesale SMS and data roaming charges.
* Increasing wholesale roaming charges to non-EU operators.
"None of these practices are prevented by regulation. However, they do serve to show that the wholesale market for voice and data continues to display market failures that require industry intervention to resolve.
"MTN has adopted a progressive view that benefits its roaming subscribers by making the roaming rates more transparent and predictable. MTN is currently developing systems and negotiating ways to make roaming more affordable for its subscribers:
* MTN is developing systems to ensure that subscribers are automatically logged onto the most affordable network when roaming
* MTN is developing a system which will inform subscribers of the data roaming rate as soon as they land in a foreign country (for example – a welcome SMS, as the traveler arrives in say France, the Welcome SMS directs him/her to preferred network partner and confirms the tariffs)
* MTN is in negotiations to secure preferential rates for MTN subscribers roaming in foreign countries as well as preferential regional tariffs for voice, data, MMS, and SMS when roaming on another MTN network.
"The South African exchange rate has deteriorated substantially over the past year particularly against the Euro which has accounted for increases in roaming data tariffs. MTN can confirm that foreign data tariffs have not been increased fourfold over the past year but tariffs do vary substantially from network to network in some countries. "