The government has put a price on the “WhatsApp effect”. According to the Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe lost US$26 million in less than a year.
In a recent hearing with Parliament, the Minister shared information on how much Zimbabwean mobile voice traffic had declined because of over the top (OTT) services (services that work over the internet) like WhatsApp which provided communication alternatives.
The loss figure is derived from the money that could have been made from voice revenue. Mandiwanzira said,
There was evidence that the entire sector was bleeding as a result of the Over the Top services. From June 2015 to April 2016 mobile operators lost 186 million minutes in voice traffic and those minutes were lost to Over the Top services – to Skype to WhatsApp calling and the like.
The potential monetary loss to mobile networks as a result of the loss of those minutes for the period that I have specified was about US$26 million and the loss to POTRAZ – because POTRAZ gets a portion of the revenue – was US$139,000. And the loss to treasury through taxes was US$4 million.
So you can see that the biggest loser were the networks themselves. The second biggest loser were the people of Zimbabwe through treasury because US$4 million was being lost in taxes and the least loser was POTRAZ.
The decline of voice calling has had a significant effect on revenues for telecoms operators and OTT services have always taken blame for this. They are firmly placed in the industry’s box of disruptors.
Now, the government also appears to be keeping a closer eye on the disruptive nature of the internet and in highlighting the mobile networks’ plight it’s also putting a figure on this loss.
Since these losses partly contributed to the eventual plea from operators for higher tariffs (which the led to the floor prices) It won’t be surprising if this same focus on the financial reality of WhatsApp influences another increase in data.