As interconnection issues get more complex, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is lobbying for a single and separate clearing house to manage service providers.

The development was revealed by COMESA's telecom officer for Infrastructure and development, Dr. Abu Sufian Dafalla at last week's regional ICT conference at Kampala's Grand Imperial Hotel.

Communications networks around the world are interconnected by a bridge which allows the stations on each network to communicate with those on the other network.

Data is transmitted in the form of packets each containing a source address and a destination address.

Interconnection is currently handled by the individual service providers in COMESA and determination of the costs that should be reflected in the interconnection prices is often contentious.

In Uganda, for example, the three telecom firms, uganda telecom, Celtel and MTN have had to resort to the courts of law (after failing to agree) to remedy their interconnection woes and often times, after many years of legal battle, have had to pay out huge sums to the competition.

Organised by COMESA and hosted by the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), the workshop on 'The role of promoting trade and investment in Northern Corridor: Interconnection, Pricing and Consumer Related issues' was held from November 13 to 15.

If COMESA has its way with the clearing house, the telecom companies will have to give up the responsibility of handling interconnection.

The 20 member bloc is made up of DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Malawi, Madagascar, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe Swaziland, Mauritius, Eritrea, Djibouti, Angola, Libya, Rwanda and Comoros

Attended by delegates from DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Malawi, Madagascar, Seychelles, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, participants in principle agreed on the clearing house.

Presenting a paper on interconnection, Dr. Dafalla said that an important objective of price regulation is to insure that regulated operators are permitted to earn sufficient revenues to finance on -going operations and future investment.

Dr. Dafalla told Business Week that the clearing house was a new idea coming to Asia and other developing countries. "Interconnection issues are going to be more complex in the future," he said.

East African Business Week