New high mobile tariffs suspended
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.