By year-end The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) could be one step closer to having roaming charges eliminated for travellers within the region. This arrangement would only include CARICOM citizens and will exclude international visitors.
Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell and Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley are leading the initiative for CARICOM. The Caribbean leaders along with representatives from the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union met with representatives of Digicel and Cable and Wireless to discuss the issue recently.
As CARICOM works toward creating a single ICT space; the removal of roaming charges is critical to reducing inefficiencies, lowering costs and increasing intra-regional productivity.
Although roaming rates were discussed before, progress has been slow in coming but now Mitchell is reviving that effort as leader in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet for Science and Technology.
“I want to indicate that there is a desire, given the history of discussions on this topic, to expedite negotiations and conclude within the shortest possible time, ideally in three months or less, with a view to implementing before the end of 2021. I believe if we can do this, all of us will benefit – the service providers will not lose and the region will feel better about what we are doing at this important level,” he said.
The initiative is to create a “roam-like-at-home” so that charges would be few to none. Roaming charges would be removed from voice, data and SMS messages.
Mitchell added that the notion of removing high roaming charges should help to unleash greater creativity among the Caribbean youth.
Mottley said that this initiative is much needed especially with lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The only way to do that is through the opportunity for digital connectivity beyond the Caribbean region and integrating into the world economy.”
Both Digicel and Cable and Wireless have agreed to working with CARICOM and described the initiative as a win-win”.