Zim backpedals on mobile charges
THE POWER of social media has once again been felt in Zimbabwe after Twitter and Facebook outbursts against the government and mobile operators forced the government to re-think a steep tariff hike on mobile data fees.
Social media played a pivotal role in availing a platform for Zimbabweans to canvass for support against the new exorbitant data charges.
Both operators, the regulator and the minister responsible received a fair share of criticism and verbal attacks from disgruntled subscribers.
The Information Communication Technology minister, Super Mandiwanzira, who had said he was on leave until January 30, had to come out of his holiday, issuing a directive to reverse the tariff hike on Thursday night.
“I have directed an immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago, to the dismay of many mobile phone users,” said Mandiwanzira.
The new “floor” data tariffs approved by the Zimbabwe government and implemented by mobile operators had been set at 2 US cents (R0.27) per 1MB.
Econet Wireless, the biggest telecommunications company in Zimbabwe had implemented the new charges and was charging $5 for 250MB and 50 cents for 5MB.
On Thursday, senior executives from the country’s telecommunications operators had said they were engaging the regulator on potential reversal of the steep data prices enforced by the regulator.
By Friday morning, all mobile operators had reverted to the old and promotional data tariffs. Econet has limited data bundle charges of 250MB for $1 valid for 24 hours.
Leaked minutes of a meeting of telecommunication executives in October last year show that Econet and NetOne proposed a floor price of 5 US cents on data while Telecel proposed a tariff of one half US cent per MB.
“The difference on the data floor, however, prompted Telecel to request more time to consider their proposal and will revert to members on October 19, 2016,” read the minutes.
Mandiwanzira accused the Zimbabwean mobile operators of “gluttonous corporate greed” although Econet Wireless chief executive, Douglas Mboweni, had charged that implementation of the steep data tariffs was in line with a directive from the industry regulator.
The directive was issued to all mobile network operators in the country. Econet, the largest telecommunications company in Zimbabwe, charged that “the other operators had not complied with the directive and therefore there can never be a level playing field” hence it had reverted to the old tariff structure.