Zimbabweans have been bearing the brunt of expensive mobile data bundles for quite some time now as packaged by local mobile network operators.
When coughing up $10, Zimbabwe’s largest MNO by subscriber base Econet Wireless Zimbabwe gives you 300MB, whereas with the same amount money Telecel Zimbabwe you get 305MB but the state controlled operator NetOne offers a massive 1.1 GB.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
With this comparison, it is as clear as the sun that NetOne is the cheapest.
That being said, mobile subscribers still cannot withstand the pricing of these data bundles. With the economic crisis, they feel they are getting a raw deal saying the mobile data rates are far fetched.
In April, the telecoms regulator, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) defended the high cost of mobile data saying the MNOs were not inflating their data rates since the tariffs are regulated by the authority.
“We actually regulate tariffs for data. The only difference is that the study that we carried out established a certain margin that was beyond what we consider normal for voice and it found that for data there were inefficiencies with the system and that the cost-build up is quite high.
“Our approach on data is a different from that of voice. For data we say the operator should bring an application with a cost justified tariff proposal, we look at that and then approve or revert to the operator for adjustments. So it is a regulated service,” the then acting Director General Engineer Baxton Sirewu was quoted as saying.
At the Zim Zimbabwe ICT Innovators Breakfast Dialogue meeting held last week, Potraz reneged on their previous position of justifying the data prices saying that they are reviewing them.
Potraz chairperson Mr Ozias Bvute said they are pushing telecoms operators to introduce a minimum data charge.
“We have asked ourselves the question how can we make data affordable such that it is a tool for development rather than a privilege, that price is used a basis for discrimination. We are in the process of directing our mobile operators with regards to a floor price, a basis minimum price that we feel data should be provided at,” he said.
“In the next month or two, we should be at a point where data is affordable.”
In the first quarter of 2016, statistics compiled by Potraz showed that mobile penetration rate (active) increased by 1.1% to reach 96.5 from 95.4% recorded in the previous quarter whilst the internet penetration rate increased by 1.7% to reach 49.8% from 48.1% also recorded in the last quarter.
So the nation awaits for Potraz to play its parental role of ensuring that Zimbabwean telecom players reduce their data tariffs. Hopefully it will not be a marginal but a reasonable decrease for Zimbabweans to enjoy surfing with their mobile phones.