BY Everson Mushava
Recent data tariff hikes by mobile network operators dominated a roadshow held by the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) in Mashonaland Central province this week.
Villagers in Mutorashanga, Mvurwi, Concession and Glendale demanded to know why Potraz allowed mobile network providers to hike data tariffs at a time their incomes were eroded, claiming that it impeded on their right to communication.
But Potraz consumer affairs manager Phibion Chaibva said the country’s data tariffs remained competitive and comparable to regional charges.
Chaibva said mobile network providers did not hike data tariffs, but adjusted the charges to the price movements in the economy after liberalisation of the United States dollars and RTGS exchange rate by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe .
He said previously mobile network operators used to bundle their products under promotions in response to rapid adoption of over the top services (OTTs) such as WhatsApp.
“The promotions resulted in data being offered at low cost for social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and others. Competition for customers forced mobile network providers to keep the costs low, but they have now been forced to abandon the promotions,” Chaibva said.
Consumers pleaded with government to ensure workers’ salaries were increased, claiming they can no longer afford to buy data.
“The data depletes fast and is expensive for us. We earn our salaries in RTGS,” one consumer at Glendale said.
“We want to thank Potraz for educating us on various issues because I learnt a lot. I did not know the difference between promotions and the out of bundle and I’m happy to learn that I can opt out.”
Another added: “We understood the reason that the operators had to survive, but the problem is that our salaries have been eroded and we can’t afford. We plead with them to reintroduce flexible and affordable promotions so that consumers can be able to access the internet.”
Potraz will continue with the publicity campaigns today in Gweshe and Nzvimbo Growth Point and a mega roadshow to be held at Rushinga Growth Point