By Pride Mahlangu
Econet Wireless — Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator — has reviewed its data and SMS (Short Message Service) tariffs upwards by an average of 25 percent.
The country’s Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) last reviewed its tariff structure in October last year when the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) approved a 95,39 percent tariff increase.
Zimbabwe’s other MNOs are Telecel and the State-owned NetOne.
Econet, together with other industry players, have been in continuous engagement with Potraz to adopt a tariff regime that will ensure the continued viability of the sector as well as the quality of service.
This was in view of the obtaining inflationary pressures.
In a statement on Monday, the country’s biggest MNO by subscriber base, Econet, warned customers that it would be reviewing its data and SMS tariffs yesterday.
“Dear valued customer, please note that our Data and SMS bundle prices will be reviewed effective Tuesday 4 February 2020,” it said.
Econet has indicated that its weekly WhatsApp bundles went up by an average of 25 percent for 140 megabytes with prices moving from ZWL$15 to $19.
The daily WhatsApp bundles moved from $8 to $9 for 65MB.
Some of the bundles like the weekly SMS bundle remained stagnant at $3 for 75 SMS.
In separate interviews, economic commentators and the Consumer Rights’ Association (CRA) expressed mixed views on the issue of price hikes by MNOs.
Economist Dr Gift Mugano said:
“The telecoms industry in general needs to have prices which will enable them to pay the debt they have accrued with foreign creditors.
“The issue of ICTs which are always evolving brings pressure on the workers given that the poverty datum line is now almost $4 000, so a 25 percent increase to me is very small.
“To be honest, it is nothing and the challenge which faces the sector is that services are no longer efficient because of constrained capacity due to lack of funds.”
Another economic commentator Dr Keith Guzah said the environment was challenging for both the telecommunication companies who are struggling to function with low tariffs and consumers who cannot afford the high tariffs charged by the telecoms sector.
“In terms of the economic fundamentals where the US dollar and the Zimbabwe dollar are not at the same level vis a vis the resources that people are earning, this translates to unfairness on the part of the mobile operators.
“We are now caught between a hard rock . . . for them to continue in business there must be that change in terms of increasing the tariffs to also mitigate the spiralling costs,” he said.
“But there is a possibility that one who is supposed to pay for the service does not have the resources. So, there will be a challenge with regards to the number of subscribers.”
CRA spokesperson Mr Effie Ncube said his association disagrees with anything that raises the cost of living without a corresponding rise in income.
“If we pegged whatever goods and services we have on inflation, we have to do the same when it comes to salaries and wages.
“We have to take into account how much people are earning. In this case, this is way above workers’ salaries and its profiteering.
“We have always said that our data and our voice calls are too expensive so there is no need to raise them if we are not going to correspondingly raise wages and salaries,” he said. The Chronicle