Telecoms tariff hike looms

TELECOMMUNICATIONs tariff increases across the board loom after government announced plans to increase licence fees for operators with effect from June this year.

Report by Fidelity Mhlanga

Finance minister Tendai Biti announced recently that licence fees for telecoms operators were set to increase from US$100 million to US$180 million in a move analysts said was a desperate ploy to tap extra money for polls.

With the telecommunications companies operating in the country yet to receive formal communication on the looming fee hikes, it has emerged the new system would trigger a subsequent rise in tarrifs.

In a recent interview with businessdigest, Telecel Zimbabwe general manager, Angeline Vere, said should the mooted licence renewal fees be gazzetted, customers would most likely bear the consequences through tariff increases.

“In the event that the licence renewal fees are regularised and formalised in this current form, this will undoubtedly have a negative impact on tariffs where some of the costs will be passed on to consumers,” Vere said.

Telecommunications companies are sceptical about the proposed hike and believe a more sustainable and realistic method to promote viability of the sector is possible and should be sought.

The new regime is believed to be retrogressive and probably not the best way to recoup the investments and as such, a more practical licensing regime was required.

Vere echoed sentiments that telecoms operators need a licence regime that allows them to expand their networks, increase and diversify their services, making them affordable to consumers.

“One that balances the enablement of network capacitating and service provision with affordability will be welcome.” she said
Other operators were wary to pre judge the issues. Probed for its views on the matter, Econet said it had no comment.

Government-owned Netone’s licence is due for renewal mid next year. Netone has also not commented.However, Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe Deputy director-general, Alfred Chirisa, acknowledged there was a review in the telecommunications sector licensing fees, but declined to divulge information on the likely impact of the new regime on consumers.

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