Zim backpedals on mobile charges

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Tawanda Karombo

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.

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