By Lloyd Gumbo
The government-owned mobile operator, NetOne, has approached the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) seeking a downward review of its latest tariffs.
There are fears that the new mandatory tariffs could affect the mobile operator’s promotion package OneFusion, whose data tariffs are priced below the latest minimum regulation of 2 cents per megabyte.
NetOne has not yet effected the new tariffs, as it waits for the regulator to make a determination on its appeal.
Other telecommunication companies immediately effected the new tariffs yesterday, drawing brickbats from several quarters.
NetOne acting chief executive officer, Mr Brian Mutandiro, confirmed that they were yet to effect the new tariffs.
“I cannot disclose any position as we are currently in consultation with the regulator with a view of adopting the determination,” he said yesterday.
Contacted for comment yesterday, POTRAZ public relations manager, Mrs Sibo Muteyiwa, said she was not aware of appeals from mobile operators.
In responses to questions whose origin could not be established, POTRAZ said one of its mandates was to promote innovation: “Therefore, the authority has a duty to capacitate innovation drives in line with global technological developments by creating an enabling environment for the sector to provide innovative services, failure of which there would be no innovation to talk about.
“POTRAZ’s aim is to keep the price of data as low as possible, while ensuring sustainability of the sector and protection of consumers. The authority’s intention in setting floor prices is therefore to maintain a delicate balance between service affordability by consumers, and operator viability.
“The authority is currently carrying out studies to review the cost models used in tariff setting, which were designed in 2014 to ensure fair pricing. The results of the study will guide any tariff changes,” reads the emailed responses.
Mobile operators such as Econet yesterday effected the floor prices for voice and mobile data bundles in line with the regulator’s directive.
The cheapest bundle of data at 5MB now costs 50 cents, with another 5MB bonus on Wi-Fi. One will have to fork out $50 to buy 2.5 gigabyte and a bonus 2.5GB.
Before the latest tariff increase, some Internet service providers charged $29 for 15GB for data per month.
According to the new tariff regulations, traditional voice services will cost at least 12 cents per minute.
POTRAZ recently wrote to mobile operators advising them of the new tariffs and ordering them to discontinue all promotions that were not in tandem with the new tariffs, with the effective date being January 9, 2017.
“All relevant licensees offering promotions and bundled service packages must review their offerings in the market in line with the floor prices set and discontinue all current offerings that are not in line with the floor prices by 9th of January 2017,” said POTRAZ.
The regulator argued that the minimum prices set would go a long way in addressing “the apparent under-pricing of voice and data services that was characteristic of data bundles and promotions that were being offered by operators.”
In July last year, POTRAZ suspended all promotions citing the fact that data bundles and packages offered by telecommunications companies resulted in situations where data services were priced well below 1 cent per megabyte.
This, they said, increased data traffic significantly without a corresponding growth in revenue realised by the operators. “Overall revenues realised from the telecommunications sector” POTRAZ said, “continuously declined at the rate of 10-12 percent per quarter since the beginning of 2016.” The Herald