THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has admitted that data tariffs charged by the country’s mobile network operators are very high, but could not intervene as yet because this would destroy the sector.
The regulator forced the country’s three mobile network operators Econet, Telecel and NetOne to slash prices for voice calls to between $0,15 and $0,16 per minute, but remained mum on data charges.
Potraz said subscribers should not be charged more than $0,15 per minute on mobile net-on-net calls, $0,16 for national calls to other mobile networks, $0,16 for national calls to fixed and Voice over Internet protocol networks and $0,05 for both net-on-net and cross-network sms.
However, subscribers expressed concern that the networks were overcharging them on data and called on Potraz to control pricing.
For example, NetOne data bundles are priced at $1 for 17 megabytes (MB), Econet $1 for 10MB while Telecel charges $0,12 per MB.
These tariffs are independent of promotions such as NetOne’s Mahala Weekends or any other mobile network operator might be offering at significantly lower prices.
Subscribers had also complained about the poor connection speeds and stability of the network data services.
A Potraz official, who only identified herself as Mutseyekwa told Southern Eye Business that they could not regulate data tariffs at the moment due to the high costs associated with running data.
“We found out that there are high costs involved in running the data due to low penetration, so we are actually not going to control its pricing at the moment. We are leaving it to them (telecom operators) to decide the prices,” Mutseyekwa said.
A technology analyst Nigel Gambanga said it was too early for Potraz to start regulating data tariffs for telecoms players because it was still at a developmental stage.
“It’s too early to for Potraz to put regulatory control on data tariffs because it is still in the development stage in the country. Data penetration is still low as it is around 13% and if they do that they will kill operators. I think they will start controlling the costs when the penetration is at around 80%, just like they did with voice calls,” Gambanga said.
A 2014 study conducted by Potraz revealed that Zimbabwe’s mobile voice subscribers were being overcharged by up to 30% due to a variety of operational inefficiencies.
The regulatory authority adopted a new pricing model to regulate the local industry abandoning the Cositu pricing framework — the International Telecommunications Union’s model for the determination of costs and tariffs (including interconnection and accounting rates) for telephone services — in favour of a long-run incremental cost model, in response to public outcry by consumers.