Singapore and Malaysia have inked a bilateral agreement to lower roaming rates for voice calls and text messaging for mobile subscribers in the two countries.
In a statement Wednesday, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said effective May 1, Singapore and Malaysia mobile subscribers will enjoy reductions of up to 30 percent for voice calls, and 50 percent for SMSes (short message services), when they tap the mobile roaming service of any mobile operator in the two countries.
The agreement follows a commitment laid out in June 2010 by the two countries, to explore ways to lower the prevailing roaming rates offered to mobile users.
Dato' Sri Utama Rais Yatim, Malaysia's minister of information, communications and culture, noted in the statement that the initiative is the first bilateral cooperation to reduce roaming charges within Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and "paves the way for other similar efforts" between countries in the region.
According to IDA, mobile operators will implement the price reductions gradually over two phases, for both prepaid and postpaid subscribers. For example, Singaporeans traveling in Malaysia currently pay between S$0.70 (US$0.56) and S$1.00 (US$0.80) per minute when they receive an incoming call, but from May 1, 2011, they will pay between S$0.56 (US$0.45) and S$0.80 (US$0.64) per minute. Come May 1, 2012, the rates will drop further to between S$0.49 (US$0.39) and S$0.70 (US$0.56).
Study on data roaming rates ongoing
Together with its ICT regulator counterpart the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the IDA is also currently studying charges relating to roaming data service, MMSes (multimedia messaging service) and video calls.
Leong Keng Thai, IDA's deputy chief executive and director-general (Telecoms & Post), told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that the two agencies recognize consumers across both sides of the Straits are concerned about the pricing of these services and will assess the need for similar price reductions "as part of a subsequent phase of collaboration in the future".
A recent survey conducted by ZDNet found that mobile users in the Asia-Pacific region want carriers to cut data roaming charges by 60 to 80 percent before they are willing to chalk more more data usage. Some 87 percent also indicated that they have experienced "bill shock" before.