By Tabora Bojang
The Gambia’s public regulatory authority has reported that the country is losing unprecedented sums of millions of dalasis in revenue over illegal redirection of international calls by unscrupulous individuals who bypass the country’s international gateway. Owing to very high incoming termination rates for calls into the Gambia ($0.30/ min), there remains a grey market dominated by sim boxers.
The management and senior officials of PURA yesterday appeared before deputies at the National Assembly to present their financial and activity reports for 2017 and 2018.
The officials say the country’s high incoming termination rates for international incoming calls, massive drops in international traffic due to increase in voice over internet protocols (VOIP) and the absence of a robust gateway monitoring system are among the principal factors that favoured the rise of sim box fraudsters.
It said this results in significant revenue loss to the operators and government.
PURA officials stated that in 2018, the sector witnessed a massive drop of 55% in international traffic because of increase in VOIP users and persistent rise in the number of sim boxers, yet local traffic has been growing constantly and recently increased by 9% as the year ended as a result of increase on-net calls increasing by 49 million minutes attributed to the price war.
The decrease in termination rates did not lead to the expected increase in international voice traffic since OTT services and sim box trafficking still proposes cheaper rates.
Gambia’s mobile penetration continues to be higher than both the regional and continental level reaching 147% compared to the African average of 98.9%.
Significant reductions in the on-net tariff have been realised as all local operators reduced their tariffs resulting to a 28% decrease in on net and 11% drop in average off-net tariffs. Gamtel offers the cheapest tariff at D0.73 per minute.
Average tariff for international calls are still charged on zoned structures. Senegal has the highest tariff charging of D19. 49 per minute while the US and Europe forms the lowest tariff destination at D13.83 for every minute followed by the rest of the world with D15.9.
The country’s gateway has still not been liberalised as it continues to remain under Gamtel even after the government terminated the exclusive gateway-monitoring contract with MGI.
PURA director general Ansumana Sanneh said in ensuring affordable tariff plans, the authority has pushed for the liberalisation of the international voice market for greater consumer welfare and revenue to both the state and the private sector. “These are policy decisions and PURA is only to implement policies in place,” he emphasised.
He said the government is working on plans to liberalise the gateway but “they want to have a system in place to be able to monitor what goes in and out by the various operators” expected to be operating their own gateways when liberalised.
The authority recommends that tariffs and quality of service issues on the traditional voice platforms must be adequately addressed to stem the decline in international voice traffic volumes.