Zim govt under fire for ‘painful’ data price hikes

2017-01-12 14:59 - Memory Mataranyika
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Harare – Zimbabwean telecommunications operators have had enough of ridicule and complaints from subscribers venting their frustrations on social media over new steep mobile data prices.

The companies have subsequently asked Zimbabwe’s government for a review of the new fees.

The regulator said at the beginning of this month that "the floor price for traditional voice services shall be set at 12 US cents per minute" and set the floor price for data at 2c per megabyte.

READ: Zim sets price floors for mobile tariffs

Following this directive, 250MB is now costing about $5 (R67), while 50c (R6) gives gives subscribers about 5MB.

However, it appears that Econet, which is owned by businessman Strive Masiyiwa, is the only company that has implemented the new tariffs.

Meanwhile NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe – both owned by the government – are yet to implement the new fees.

Econet Wireless CEO Douglas Mboweni said in a statement to subscribers on Thursday that the steep data prices were in compliance with a directive from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) to all mobile operators in the country.

“Our recent implementation of the new floor pricing of data ... was done in compliance with the directive that was issued to all mobile network operators by the industry regulator, Potraz,” said Mboweni.

He added that Econet Wireless is “engaging the regulator on the matter” as it is feeling “the pain” that subscribers are experiencing.

Although Telecel Zimbabwe, in which the government of Zimbabwe recently completed the takeover of a 60% controlling stake from VimpelCom, has not yet announced an official position on the new data tariffs, it has been advertising daily data tariffs set at $1 for 150MB valid for 24 hours.

Another state-owned telco, NetOne, said it is engaging the government on the new tariffs.

Insiders said the company has decided to hold off on the new tariffs. NetOne has previously had bitter fights with Econet over outstanding call termination arrears.

“I cannot disclose any position as we are currently in consultation with the regulator,” Brian Mutandiro, chief executive officer of NetOne, was quoted as saying by the state-run Chronicle newspaper.

Social media has been abuzz, with the #DataMustFall hashtag dominant on Twitter and similar discussions also popular on Facebook.

READ: Zim data ruling could be attempt to clamp down on social media

Econet Wireless, the country’s largest telco, has been the most targeted for verbal attacks as it was the first operator to implement the new floor tariffs as directed by Potraz this month.

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