HARARE – Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) says mobile network operators are not inflating mobile data and Internet services tariffs.
Baxton Sirewu, Potraz acting director general, said mobile network operators had no room to inflate the charges as the watchdog organisation kept a microscopic lookout and regulated all tariffs.
“We 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,” Sirewu said.
This follows an outcry from subscribers that the data tariffs in the country were too high compared to regional countries.
Information gathered by business daily reveals that NetOne data bundles are priced at $1 for 17 megabytes (MB), Econet $1 for 10MB while Telecel charges $0,12 per MB, while in South Africa standard data rate is about 1 rand per MB.
Sirewu, however, said mobile data and Internet services could not be inflated indicating the levying process was different from that of voice tariffs.
“The approach on data is 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,” he said.
The generally high cost of data has seen the usage of mobile data and Internet services in Zimbabwe remaining fairly low, despite a surge in the country’s mobile penetration rate, which is currently over 100 percent.
Internet penetration rate (reflecting access) is hovering around 50 percent, which shows limited access to it by a significant portion of the population.
This comes as managing director of State-owned mobile operator NetOne, Reward Kangai, recently said that social network applications such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and others were eating into mobile network operators’ revenues while enjoying unfair competition as they do not pay tax.
Kangai told reporters at the recent Innovation Africa Digital Summit that the industry was full of “over the top” players who ride on existing infrastructure without paying taxes.
“In this telecoms industry capital expenditure is very high and increasing because of demand for broadband services. We have to continuously upgrade our systems, which needs capital but you find there are some operators who get returns from use of our networks.
“Our revenues are going down because there are some clever over-the-top players who ride on our infrastructure for free and use our services for their benefit yet they don’t pay taxes,” said.
Last year, Zimbabwean mobile operators Econet, Telecel and NetOne were ordered by regulator, Potraz, to slash mobile voice tariffs from the current $0,23 per minute to $0,15.
Market watchers say most operators have resorted to hiking data tariffs to boost revenues and make up for the imposed voice tariffs slash from last year. Daily News