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Potraz heeds Parliament call

By Freedom Mashava

THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has paid heed to Parliament’s call to educate consumers in remote areas on data bundle services.

Gift Machengete, the Potraz director-general

Phibion Chaibva, the Potraz consumer affairs manager, yesterday said the country’s data tariffs remain in line with regional trends despite the recent review of bundled and promotional products by mobile network operators.
“For the past four years mobile network operators were forced to introduce bundled products, which are commonly referred to promotions, as a response to rapid adoption of Over The Top services (OTTs) such as Whatsapp and other data services.
“These promotions saw data being offered at very low costs for popular applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook, hence the term Whatsapp Bundle and Facebook Bundle. Competition for subscribers among the networks kept costs for these bundles low,” he told consumers at roadshows in Mutorashanga and Mvurwi.
Chaibva noted that after the regulator had denied the proposal by mobile network operators in March, they varied their packages in an effort to attain business viability.
Last month, mobile network operators such as Econet, Telecel and NetOne slightly adjusted their bundles data packages in line with prevailing price movements in the economy, as the loss of value in the local currency following the new monetary policy has seen suppliers effecting price increases on their products and services, as costs have gone up.
The various bundles were introduced during the peak of competition.
However, despite the review of promotions, Zimbabwe’s out of bundle data rates remain pegged at RTGS$0,05 per MB, without taxes.
This translates to about RTGS$50 per MB.
Given the movement in the exchange rate between the US dollar and the RTGS dollar, which now stands at 1US$:RTGS$3,2, the US dollar tariff for the out of bundle data now stands at US$0,016 per MB or US$15,63 for 1GB of mobile data.
Charlton Hwende, chairman of the ICT Parliamentary portfolio, recently said it was crucial for Potraz to explain the new changes to the majority of consumers in rural areas.
“The new prices are not being understood by most consumers and there is need to seriously consider educating consumers on the difference between promotions, bundles and the normal charges and they should know what they are subscribing to,” he said.
Chibva, however, noted that despite the recent increases all three networks are offering bundled data of between RTGS$0,02 and RTGS$0,04 per MB, which is below the approved ceiling of RTGS$0,06 per MB that became effective on April 01, 2019.
A comparison, in US dollar terms, of data tariffs with those of fellow SADC countries shows that, contrary to general perception, our tariffs in Zimbabwe are in fact, quite comparable to those in the region.
According to Communications Regulators’ Association of Southern Africa (CRASA) 2019 statistics, one Gig of data in Zimbabwe cost US$20, including taxes, while the most expensive is Mozambique, at US$130.
It costs US$93 for 1GB of mobile data in Botswana while the price in the Kingdom of Eswatini is pegged at US$56.
The CRASA report also shows customers fork out US$88 in Zambia for the same data bundle while in Namibia, Malawi and Lesotho the tariff charge is pegged at US$63, US$43 and US$22 respectively.
South Africa is the lowest at US$11.