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New data fees 'floor' Zimbabwe subscribers

By , Journalist
Zimbabwe , 11 Jan 2017

New data fees 'floor' Zimbabwe subscribers

Zimbabwe's telecommunications industry regulator Potraz (Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe ) has justified newly implemented data and social media accessibility tariffs as necessary to ensure the viability of operators.

Subscribers of the country's three mobile operators, Telecel Zimbabwe, NetOne and Econet Wireless, have already taken to social media to criticise the decision.

The #datamustfall was top trending in Zimbabwe on Twitter on Wednesday morning, with lawyer, Fadzai Mahere tweeting: "$100 is not enough to buy 4GB of data. Let that sink in. Why does the system fear social media so much? #ThisFlag"

Under the new 'floor' data fees, approved by Potraz, 250MB costs approximately US$5 while 50 US cents will purchase about 5MB.

Previously, Econet was running a promotion offering 250MB for US$1 which was valid for 24 hours, while Telecel offered 300MB for the same price.

The new floor tariffs for social media platform bundles for WhatsApp and Facebook are set at 50 US cents for 10MB and US$5 for 170MB. Previously, social media bundles were set at US$1 for one week (unlimited for NetOne) or for 90MB on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Gift Machengete, Director General at Potraz said the regulator's "intention in setting floor prices (for data) is to maintain a delicate balance between service affordability by consumers and operator viability" in the country.

"Potraz's aim is to keep is the price of data as low as possible while ensuring sustainability of the sector and protection of consumers," said Machengete. "Potraz is currently consulting stakeholders in the sector and conducting research on the impact of OTTs and how to reduce the negative impact of the same on sector viability while harnessing their advantages in line with global trends."

There was no immediate response from the mobile operators on the new tariffs which has been communicated to respective subscribers. Econet and other operators have previously haggled with the government over their desire to hike tariffs.

Zimbabwe is tightening the squeeze on social media usage in the country say experts, and the country is pursuing a cybercrime bill while also establishing a single gateway for telecommunications traffic in and out of the country.

Social media users said on Tuesday that the new tariffs are designed to deal with anti-government protest action usually organised and publicised on social media platforms.

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