LIRNEasia researcher Shazna Zuhylesaid calls between member and mostly neighbouring countries were often much more expensive than telephoning nations much further away such as the United States or Britain.
Zuhyle said South Asians are also unable to figure out unit costs of their phone calls, when they roam within the region, due to reasons ranging from agreements signed with multiple operators to local taxes.
"For instance, an Afghanistani roaming in Bangladesh will pay 158 times more to call a Bangladeshi citizen, while in that country," she said in a study of telecom charges in SAARC members Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
"It’s much much cheaper for the Afghan to buy a local SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card when he arrives in Bangladesh, and then make his or her breitling replica watch local calls. There is no transparency or consistency in the rates."A Maldivian roaming in Bangladesh will pay 345 times more for a local call, the study showed.
Sri Lanka, which liberalised telecommunications over a decade, did not fair too well. Sri Lankans roaming in Bhutan pay 103 times more, while roaming in Afghanistan will cost 115 times more.
In the run-up to the 2008 SAARC heads of state meeting in Colombo, LIRNEasia urged South Asian leaders to slash telecom tariffs in their countries to promote inter-regional trade.
The think-tank’s suggestion was taken seriously, and incorporated in the final Colombo declaration.
"The Heads of State or Government observed that an effective and economical regional telecommunication regime is an essential factor of connectivity, encouraging the growth of people-centric partnerships. They stressed the need for the Member States to endeavour to move towards a uniformly applicable low tariff, for international direct dial calls within the region," the Colombo declaration said.best replica watches
While call charges eased up a bit, communication costs within the region remains high, nearly four-years later.
"The whole point of being part of a regional block is the concept of less trade barriers. You don’t see any kind of preferential trade treatment when you look at the call tariffs," she said.
Calls were cheapest when Sri Lankans and Indians roamed in the Maldives, where it cost them three times more than buying a local SIM card.
But Maldivian users pay 185 times more for a call, when they roam in Pakistan.
Overseas call charges are fixed by individual operators and tariffs depend largely on the rates they negotiate with foreign operators, the study showed.
Zuhyle said there was more transparency in Europe where the EU has brought in laws to slash communication rates within the region.
Set up in 1985, SAARC has been criticised for achieving little -- mostly because of tensions between key members, rivals India and Pakistan.