Unfortunately, you can’t escape Zim’s high data prices by roaming on South African lines

Leonard Sengere Avatar
MTN, mobile operator

Yesterday we talked about Econet hiking tariffs. It was to be expected but the fact remains, local tariffs are too high, contrary to what the mobile operators say.

When we look at data prices especially, we find that we are paying tooth and nail for our data in Zimbabwe. We don’t have much of a choice on this matter, we either pay up or go offline. Or could there be another way?

One commenter said, “Let’s abandon local lines and adopt those from SA shift to international roaming and enjoy cheap and affordable price.

Roaming is expensive and so there is no way it could be cheaper than local tariffs.

See, roaming allows you to use your current line whilst you’re abroad. You can go to Zambia with your Econet line and still be able to receive and make calls, send SMSes and even surf the internet. Now, Econet does not have base stations in Zambia, so how is that possible? – partnerships.

Mobile operators partner with other mobile operators in different countries. So, when you travel abroad and use your phone, your mobile operator will connect you to a local network in that country.

It is obvious from this explanation that it would be more expensive to roam than it would be to use your line locally.

So, how can someone suggest roaming and using a South African line in Zimbabwe? Let’s see how the math works out.

Roaming on MTN

When it comes to voice calls, it is much more expensive to use an MTN line in Zimbabwe. Using Econet as an example, it costs R7.50 (US$0.41) a minute to make a call. If you had an Econet line that same minute would cost ZW$94.41 (US$0.08). So, roaming doesn’t make sense when it comes to voice calls.

The same applies to data. The data rate per MB is R10 (US$0.55) for Econet and NetOne and R0.99 (US$0.05) for Telecel. That translates to a GB costing $563.20 (Econet and NetOne). That is a lot. You’re better off paying US$6.86 for a GB to Econet.

Vodacom prices are similar to the MTN ones we saw above. Do note that if you were to roam using an Econet line in South Africa, a megabyte would cost $2.75. Which translates to a GB costing US$2,816. So, even on roaming, Econet is much more expensive than its South African counterparts, $2,816 vs MTN’s $563.20.

So, there you have it. Econet’s roaming charges may be higher than South African operators’ charges but locally, it’s still cheaper to use an Econet line than to roam using a South African one.

The roaming experience

I talked to a few people who are using South African lines in Zimbabwe what the experience is like. One has had a terrible experience with a Vodacom line. They are unable to make calls most times. SMSes sometimes deliver, and sometimes they don’t.

To top it off, they were told by the Vodacom employee that data services don’t work whilst roaming. I found this weird because Vodacom’s website markets such a service – surfing the internet in a foreign country using their line.

They tried calling Vodacom support but were told that their line could not make such a call. That sucks because there are no Vodacom shops in Zimbabwe that they could go to to get the problem fixed.

So, even if roaming on a South African line was cheaper in Zimbabwe, one would still have had to consider the customer support and other such matters.

Also read:

Econet tariffs increasing tomorrow, from US$6.24 per GB to possibly $9.36 for a monthly bundle

Are Econet and NetOne really saying US$7.50 or US$6.54 for 1GB is not economically sustainable?


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  1. Geralt of Rivea

    I was roaming on a Vodacom sim over the Easter holidays. I bought a 5GB roaming data bundle for R349 (approx US$19). The experience was horrible. Most of the time the sim wasn’t connecting to the data network. It only worked in Harare CBD. I have roamed with Vodacom in the middle East and Europe. I wouldn’t advise data roaming in Zim. The bundle prices make no sense anyway.

  2. Zola

    Have Roamed with vodacom as well , they a 1 GB bundle for R100 and the 5GB for R349 problem is their preferred partner is Telecel so the data will only work in a few places an and limited to 3G

    1. Kudzi

      I have roaming on MTN and the service is just terrible. You can escape the high prices but the service will make you regret it.

  3. Thanos

    I onced roamed back in 2012-2015 when one would buy netone airtime and it would topup an mtn line and make calls,data etc.Now its very expensive

  4. Joe Biden

    Me I connect to Open VPN and use 10 gb per day

  5. Anon

    Good News – Starlink Direct 2 Cell will be coming soon as well as portable Starlink dishes.

  6. Cde che

    Starlink is the answer. I also herd that Amazon is preparing to offer the same services as starlink.

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