THE Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (Potraz) yesterday justified data tariff hikes by telecommunications operators saying the telcos were actually operating below profitable thresholds.

Potraz director-general Gift Machengete told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT) chaired by Peter Moyo (MDC Alliance) that, as the regulator, Potraz made sure that telcos do not charge above normal rates.

“We try and guard against excessive pricing by operators, if they are left on their own, they can charge whatever price they wish to charge,” Machengete said.

“So as a regulator, we then have to fix the tariff so that they cannot just charge whatever they want.  In order to do so, we need to then use a scientific method of coming up with the tariffs, and a method which will also satisfy even the operators themselves that the tariffs are fair on their part.

“The method that we use is the telecommunications price index.  This method is when we look at the cost of providing the services. We look at how much is it in terms of cost, and how much is needed in order to provide the service.”

He said the tariffs were cost-based to make sure operators remain in business.

“However, we have to balance this with affordability, it has been unfortunate that for a long time salaries have been eroded and not much has happened on that side.  As a result, we now need a balancing act to see that at least the services provided can be afforded by the people.”

He said current data tariffs were based on August 2021 costs.

“We also do some adjustment depending on the amount of traffic that the operators have, and we try and ensure that the average cost of providing the service is actually taken into consideration.  It is, however, not effective without looking at the incomes themselves.”

Telecommunications providers have in recent months been increasing data charges regularly, citing increasing operational costs and the need to raise foreign currency to import spare parts.

Recently, civic society organisations embarked on a #DataMustFall campaign after mobile operators hiked data tariffs saying this will affect affordability of online lessons by students and access to information.

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