Local telecoms regulator POTRAZ bans WhatsApp bundles, operators given 7 days to comply (April Fools)

   

Dudes, this article was just another April Fools Day joke. Don’t panic & don’t take it seriously. Bundles have NOT been banned. See clarification article here.

Zimbabwe’s telecommunications regulator, POTRAZ, has announced that it will be banning all over the top service bundles for applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and Opera Mini.

All operators currently providing such services which have been available since 2014 have been given 7 days to comply and they are to ensure that subscribers are duly informed with relevant compensation provided to everyone affected by the termination of the service.

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This information which was shared in a statement issued to all telecoms operators comes in the wake of an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution passed the 24th of March 2016, which compelled all member countries to uphold a new convention on internet access standards.

The effect of this resolution has been a series of changes to internet access regulations across the world, with Zimbabwe becoming the third country in Sub-Saharan Africa to put it into effect.

One anticipated reaction will be the celebrations from net neutrality proponents that have been lobbying for a fair internet where all applications and services are provided to consumers at the same price.

This cause has however not been fully embraced by mobile operators who have fallen back on services like WhatsApp and Facebook bundles as a way of generating revenue from a coterie of services that have been identified as actually destroying traditionally lucrative services like voice calling and SMS.

Commenting on this development, one senior telecommunications executive who preferred to remain anonymous expressed his disappointment with this development.

This motion will have a negative impact on Zimbabwean internet consumption. It’s more harm than good, really. While it’s obvious that we introduced these bundles as a way of squeezing revenue from WhatsApp and all these other disruptive apps, these bundles have helped introduce more people to the internet and maintain revenues that benefit the government through taxes. POTRAZ should know this better than everyone else. Perhaps they should just ban WhatsApp instead, like we’ve always suggested.

Some merit does lie in that statement, though. While services like WhatsApp bundles spit in the face of net neutrality, they have become a very reliable way of navigating around the huge cost of broadband and have propped up telecoms revenues by boosting data services revenue while voice services continue to plummet.

The bundles have also been a great buffer for Zimbabweans hard worn by a tough economy. Rather than pay for huge amounts of data every month to stay connected, subscribers only need $3 a month to remain active on WhatsApp, something which has resulted in WhatsApp bundles becoming the most popular service accessed via the internet in Zimbabwe.

While efforts to get a comment from POTRAZ or the Ministry of ICT have been fruitless, it is understood that the mobile operators have since mounted an appeal with the Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira to have the resolution amended before the 7 day period is up.

Sorry folks. This article was just another April Fools Day joke. 😉


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