New high mo­bile tar­iffs sus­pended

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Her­ald Re­porters

GOVERN­MENT has sus­pended mo­bile data tar­iff in­creases with im­me­di­ate ef­fect fol­low­ing an out­cry from mo­bile phone users.

Govern­ment also or­dered mo­bile ser­vice providers to re­im­burse af­fected cus­tomers.

In a state­ment last night, In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Postal and Courier Ser­vices Min­is­ter Supa Mandi­wanzira said the de­ci­sion was ar­rived at af­ter not­ing the high in­creases in tar­iffs.

“In the last few min­utes, I have con­versed with the Potraz chair­man and with the kind per­mis­sion of the Act­ing Min­is­ter of ICT, Postal and Courier Ser­vices, Cde Prisca Mup­fu­mira, I have di­rected an im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion of the tar­iff in­creases that were ef­fected two days ago, to the dis­may of many mo­bile phone users.

“I have been told that the new prices were ac­tu­ally pro­posed by the mo­bile op­er­a­tors to the reg­u­la­tor. While it is con­ceiv­able that the price of data may go up, the mar­gin by which the prices have gone up is shock­ingly high and can only re­flect in­sen­si­tiv­ity to fel­low Zim­bab­weans and glut­tonous cor­po­rate greed.”

Potraz told mo­bile op­er­a­tors to set the floor price for tra­di­tional voice ser­vices at 12c per minute while the floor price for data was set at 2c per megabyte.

A floor price is a min­i­mum ef­fec­tive tar­iff charge­able per minute of voice calls and per megabyte of data.

Econet Wire­less had ad­ver­tised that the cheap­est bun­dle of data (5MB on a stan­dard con­nec­tion plus an­other 5MB avail­able on WiFi) would have cost 50 cents.

$1 would buy 10MB plus the bonus 10MB on WiFi and the high­est amount of data one would get (2.5MB plus 2.5GB bonus on WiFi) would have cost $50 ac­cord­ing to the new Econet tar­iffs.

The cheap­est bun­dle had been set at 50 cents and would come with 10MB of data plus a 10MB bonus. Sub­scribers used to pay $2.50 for a month’s ac­cess of data bun­dles but had been the new charge for 80MB plus an ex­tra 80MB on WiFi, ac­cord­ing to a pub­lished list by Econet.

He said the In­ter­net was now a key driver of eco­nomic growth - in­no­va­tion, en­trepreneur­ship and govern­ment ser­vice de­liv­ery, adding that its ac­cess was at the cen­tre of all devel­op­ment.

“It there­fore fol­lows that it must be ac­ces­si­ble — phys­i­cally and fi­nan­cially. I share and sym­pa­thise with con­cerns ex­pressed by a mul­ti­tude of Zim­bab­wean In­ter­net users that the re­cently ef­fected data prices are un­par­al­leled and ex­tor­tion­ist.

“Un­rea­son­able data prices, es­pe­cially in a high lit­er­acy coun­try like ours, un­der­mine our huge in­vest­ments in hu­man cap­i­tal, broad­band in­fra­struc­ture and the abil­ity to at­tract in­vest­ment.

“My min­istry’s In­no­va­tion Fund ini­tia­tive, which has raised more than $6 mil­lion to date, is premised on af­ford­able broad­band and growth op­por­tu­ni­ties in on-line en­ter­prises in Zim­babwe and be­yond.”

He said on the oc­ca­sion of the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Chikato Com­mu­nity In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre in Masvingo last month, Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe, spoke pas­sion­ately about his de­sire to bring marginalised com­mu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, onto the in­for­ma­tion su­per­high­way.

Min­is­ter Mandi­wanzira said this on its own was in­struc­tive that broad­band ac­cess should be af­ford­able.

“Given the as­tro­nom­i­cal rates that have been charged over the last two days, it may be nec­es­sary and morally cor­rect to get the con­cerned mo­bile net­works to re­fund their sub­scribers.

“This shall be on the agenda when I un­der­take a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the de­vel­op­ments of the last two days on the first day of my re­turn from leave on Jan­uary the 30th,” he said. “Let me take this op­por­tu­nity to wish all Zim­bab­weans, a happy and stress­free new year.”

The new tar­iffs on Zim­bab­weans’ mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tions dur­ing their day-to-day trans­ac­tions had the po­ten­tial to dampen busi­ness.

Min­is­ter Mandi­wanzira

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