NetOne Base Station

STATE-OWNED telecommunications firm, NetOne yesterday announced a sharp increase in data costs, triggering a public outcry as consumers pleaded for the intervention of the Postal and Telecommunications Authority (Potraz) to ensure the charges are reduced to affordable levels.

Telecommunications providers have in recent months been increasing data charges citing increasing operational costs and need to raise foreign currency to import spares.

Yesterday, Zimbabweans woke up to new staggering data charges by NetOne which saw the cost of 10 gigabites increasing from $4 500 to $16 250, with 80GB shooting up by 692% from $12 500 to $99 000.

NetOne later reversed the charges following an outcry from a cross section of Zimbabweans, including the Zanu PF youth league.

Zanu PF youth league deputy secretary Tendai Chirau said the charges were reduced after they met Information Communication Technology minister Jenfan Muswere to register concerns.

Economist Vince Musewe said: “The benefits of having cheap data are much more than the cost of having it expensive. Each one just does what they want but they do not have a big picture of what is going to happen to the whole economy.

“This is absolutely not a good thing.

We are going to see inflation, we going to see fewer people accessing economic activity because you need data to do that which is an impact on economic growth.”

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Kurai Matsheza said high data costs increase the cost of business, and said industry will be left with no choice, but to pass the burden to consumers.

“We are asking the regulator if they really exercise their oversight to approve such massive tariff hikes. Obviously, this will trigger hikes in a lot of sectors.

The pressure from labour unions will mount.

This does not bode well for any sector; inflation is surging again,” Matsheza said.

Potraz director-general Gift Machengete said telecommunications companies only raise charges following approval by the regulatory body.

Meanwhile, political analysts said unaffordable data costs infringed on the right to access to information as the country heads towards elections.

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