MOBILE network operators Econet Wireless Zimbabwe and Telecel Zimbabwe are likely to adjust their discounts on mobile data bundles this month to offset rising costs, industry insiders have said.
This follows State-owned mobile network operator NetOne’s announcement this week that it will be reviewing its bundle tariffs with effect from Friday, 5 March, 2021.
Statistics from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) show that the country has one of the lowest data tariffs in the region.
For instance, 1Gigabyte of data costs an average of US$5.20 in Zimbabwe, far lower than Malawi, Botswana and Madagascar where the same data is going for US$27.41, US$13.87 and US$8.81 respectively.
Industry experts this week said a tariff hike is inevitable for debt-laden companies in the sector to boost their operating cash flows. Zimbabwe’s telecommunication companies are battling high production costs, declining revenues, escalating foreign debt and foreign currency shortages, resulting in low infrastructure investment.
“You will see Econet and Telecel follow NetOne soon, it goes without saying. The data tariffs have been stagnant for the past few months while prices for most of the industry’s cost-drivers, such as fuel, have gone up,” said an official with a local telecommunications firm.
“Given the debt burden faced by the sector and the recent erosion in margins due to foreign currency fluctuations, there is no option but to adjust the prices,” said the official.
Dr Gift Machengete, the Potraz director general, recently said there was need to ensure that mobile network operators remain viable while at the same time guaranteeing affordability to consumers.
“Potraz would like to assure the nation of its commitment to continue enhancing data affordability for all citizens whilst at the same time ensuring operator viability. This is a delicate balance that requires concerted effort, including fiscal intervention to address declining disposable incomes,” he said.
The regulator, on its part, has endeavoured to balance service affordability and operator viability by ensuring that tariffs are cost based.