Harare – ICT Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira says all the three mobile operators – Econet, NetOne and Telecel – requested for protection from the industry regulator from increased usage of cheaper communication alternatives such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter that are eating into the companies’ revenue base.
Mandiwanzira appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on ICT chaired by MDC vice president, Nelson Chamisa. His appearance follows the hike in data tariffs by mobile operators last month to about 10 cents per MB that lead to a public outcry which then prompted the government to reverse the new tariffs.
He said the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) had approved floor data prices at 2 cents per MB although some of the mobile operators had started to charge tariffs of as much as 10 cents per MB.
“All of the operators approached Potraz and said help us to fight these Over the Top services. The floor price for data is 2 cents per MB and not 10 cents per MB,” Mandiwanzira said.
He however admitted that the government had erred “in good faith” when it set floor tariffs for data but did not give a guideline for the ceiling tariff above which no operator would be allowed to raise data fees.
The #datamustfall has been trending in Zimbabwe over the past few weeks, with Zimbabweans resisting the steep tariff hikes. Experts have also queried why Zimbabwe was hiking data tariffs when they should be falling.
“We took the blame as a ministry & Potraz for not setting the ceiling price on data. That was an oversight on our part,” he explained.
Econet Wireless, the biggest telco in Zimbabwe, has charged that Mandiwanzira is biased. It has also complained that it is the only company that has paid the full $137 million licence renewal fee.
The parly committee heard that NetOne, which is controlled by the government was still negotiating terms for the payment of its licence renewal which will have a 20 year tenure.
The Zimbabwean telecoms industry regulator had also moved to stop data promotions that telcos in the country were running.
Executives from mobile companies have previously complained that social media and instant messaging platforms are pausing disruptive competition which has seen average revenue per user earnings decline over the past few years.
However, NetOne is still offering its One Fusion promotion while Telecel and Econet have now reverted back to their daily and other periodic data bundle options.