Potraz evaluates local data charges
Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
THE Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe is evaluating local data charges and major cost drivers amid indications the cost of data in Zimbabwe is too high.POTRAZ director general Dr Gift Machengete said in an interview that the ongoing assessment was part of regular exercises by the regulator to ascertain state of the industry.
A research done by Research ICT Africa last year and submitted to the Parliament of South Africa, established that Zimbabwe had the third most expensive mobile data in Africa with the cheapest monthly 1GB data package in the country set at $30.
Reports indicated that the two most expensive monthly bundles in Africa were South Sudan at $90,83 and Swaziland $30,33.
The cheapest 1GB of data is available in Tanzania $0,89, Egypt $2,82 and Mozambique $2,87. The price for Zimbabwe was for standard packages and excluded bundled service telecoms operators offered to entice their consumers. Dr Machengete said since information communication technologies were critical for socio-economic development, it was ideal that data be affordable to make it accessible.
“In our studies we assess where we are compared to the region and why we are where we are. The issue of data, that it is expensive (in Zimbabwe) is something that I am personally interested in. I am looking into that, to say how possible is it in terms of making sure that data is affordable in the country?” Dr Machengete said.
Dr Machengete said it was critical that POTRAZ made sure that the cost of data in Zimbabwe was affordable, as this was important in bringing down cost of goods and services.
In ordering reversal of the steep data and voice call tariffs in January, Information Communication Technology Minister Supa Mandiwanzira said “unreasonable data prices, especially in a high literacy country like ours, undermine huge investments in human capital, broadband infrastructure and the ability to attract investment.”
Data has become a key source of revenue for telecom companies in the face of falling revenue from traditional major contributors such as voice and SMS, which have suffered from growth in alternative options provided by over the top services.
For instance, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile phone operator Econet Wireless, with over 10 million subscribers, says data and mobile money now make up 32 percent of revenue.
The review of data prices POTRAZ comes after it set floor prices in January this year for data and voice calls at 2 cents per megabyte and 12c per minute, respectively. Government, shortly after, directed that the rates be suspended following a public outcry.