ECOWAS and WATRA see Regional Roaming as next big Business for GSM Operators
Even as mobile operators try to cope with the headache of about 98 per cent Pay-As-You-Go subscribers, boss of the West African Telecommunications Regulators Association, WATRA, is encouraging the operators to tap into the honey pot which the roaming business across the West African sub region represents.
There are 45 operators across the sub-region and both ECOWAS and WATRA are of the opinion that seamless business amongst them and across countries, will present a great source of revenue and are therefore working together to ensure that roaming is fully activated in the region as it is in other parts of the world.
Speaking at a conference in Abuja recently, Messrs Nnamdi Nwokike, Executive Secretary, WATRA, and Raphael Koffi, Telecom Adviser, ECOWAS, unearthed figures and possibilities within the sub region that would make it super attractive to any investor.
Presenting the EU example to press home his point, Nwokike informed that roaming spend by mobile subscribers in EU countries in 2005 stood at 5bn euros while money exchanged by the operators was 3.5bn euros.
According to the figures supplied by Nwokike, EU population stands at 467million, mobile penetration 439 million while subscribers who roam are 147million. Of this figure, 25 per cent are business roamers while 8 per cent roam for leisure. There are over 2.5bn GSM and 3G subscribers across the world, and about 50,000 new connections are made every hour.
The region’s mobile operators currently see the challenge of implementing roaming for pre-pay subscribers as the biggest obstacle. However, MTN has already said (at GSM Africa 2006) that it want to create a roaming region across West Africa. It currently has operations along the length of West Africa except Togo. Currently there are two other roaming schemes: Comium’s between Liberia and Sierra Leone and Sonatel and Ikatel (both France Telecom-owned) between Senegal and Mali.