Zimbabwe has the third most expensive mobile data in Africa with the cheapest monthly 1 GB data package in the country set at $30.
This is according to a report on the state of prepaid market-cost of communication submitted to the South Africa Parliament by African IT research body, Research ICT Africa.
The report identified the average cost of communication for 47 African countries by making quarterly comparisons on shifts in prices. The focus was on mobile prepaid pricing trends for voice, SMS, and 1 GB monthly data.
In the second quarter of 2016 (April to June 2016) the cheapest 1 GB data bundle in Zimbabwe cost US$30 for 1 month’s access.
This $30 tag for Zimbabwean data denotes the standard data bundles and not products like the daily data bundles that have been introduced by local mobile operators as a way of extending a larger amount of data to subscribers for a limited access window (24 hours).
The two most expensive monthly bundles in Africa that came out ahead of Zimbabwe’s own prices were for South Sudan (US$90.83) and Swaziland (US$30.33).
The cheapest 1 GB of data is available in Tanzania (US$0.89), Egypt (US$2.82) and Mozambique (US$2.87). At US$5.27 South Africa was placed 16th out of the 47 countries recorded.
While it’s clear that Zimbabwe internet access should be revised downwards considering the macroeconomic conditions that have reduced citizens’ disposable incomes, it’s highly unlikely that mobile operators will revise standard broadband bundles.
Over the past two years Zimbabwe’s telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, has moved to address the steep prices for voice and SMS.
The move, which has been cited by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) as a contributor to the decline in their revenues and was also legally contested by one of the operators, steered clear of any reforms on mobile broadband prices.
POTRAZ waived any reduction on data prices citing the huge costs incurred by mobile networks in providing the internet in a landlocked country and improving their mobile networks infrastructure.
Essentially the MNOs were given legroom to provide telecoms at the current prices so as to ensure the potential recovery on mobile broadband investments while safeguarding the viability of the industry.
This scenario has left the standard cost of data at the steep $30 mark and has also forced the MNOs to explore workarounds like daily data bundles and Over the Top (OTT) services such as the WhatsApp and Facebook bundles.
These products help MNOs maintain subscribers’ appetites for mobile broadband consumption in the short to medium term without facing the responsibility of offering data services at a more affordable price.
In the absence of a major campaign from consumers like the #DataMustFall campaign in South Africa or regulator led tariff review, it’s safe to say that Zimbabwe will continue to rank as a country with one of the most expensive data pricing regimes.