Zimbabwe's Minister Of ICT, Supa Mandiwanzira, issued a statement on Thursday, 12 January 2017 announcing the "immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago (09 January 2017)". The announcement will come as a relief to Zimbabweans who took to social media to voice their anger at the steep data price hikes.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Portraz) had recently issued a directive to all telecommunications companies notifying them that data floor prices need to be increased. Portraz advised that the floor price should be increased to $0.02 per MB but Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, then decided to charge an inflated $0.10 per megabyte. This resulted in Econet listing, for example, their 300 MB data bundle at $10! To put this into context, before the data floor price hike by Portraz, 250 MB by Econet cost $1.
In his statement, Minister also revealed that the data price increases were actually the idea of the mobile service providers, he said that "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".
"I have conversed with the Potraz Chairman and with the kind permission of the Acting Minister of ICT, Postal & Courier Services, Cde. Prisca Mupfumira, I have directed an immediate suspension of the tariff increases that were effected two days ago."Supa Collins Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe's Minister of ICT
Shortly after Minister Mandiwanzira had issued the statement, PORTRAZ issued their statement announcing that "POTRAZ would like to advise consumers and stakeholders in general of its decision to withdraw Regulatory Determination No 1 of 2016 with immediate effect".
PORTRAZ also used the statement to take a swipe at Zimbabwe's mobile service providers, emphasizing that it was the mobile service providers' idea and that they proposed the data price hikes to PORTRAZ. They didn't mince their words in the statement, making it clear that they are "concerned and disturbed by the conduct, double standards, negative utterances and refusal to take ownership of the decision by some Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). It has become apparent to us that the service providers have decided not own up to the fact that they engaged the Regulator regarding declining revenues which were, according to them, threatening industry viability and service roll out*".
"In fact, the MNOs met prior to the issuance of this determination and proposed even higher floor prices through their collective voice, the Telecommunications Operators Association of Zimbabwe (TOAZ)."Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PORTRAZ)
On Thursday too, as soon as PORTRAZ hade issued their statement, Econet Wireless went ahead to confirm with their customers, through a statement, that they are reverting back to the old data tariffs.
All this change of decisions in a short space of time regarding data tariffs in Zimbabwe likely speaks to a lack of consultation with customers by the regualtor, PORTRAZ, who took the proposal by the mobile service providers and implemented as they requested to protect their declining revenues.
Cover Image Credit: ITU