Econet data bundle price adjustment largely expected

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The country’s largest mobile network operator Econet Wireless Zimbabwe has adjusted its data bundle tariffs upwards in a move that was largely expected, following  State-owned competitors NetOne and Telecel’s data bundle price adjustments a few days back.

Econet’s new data portfolio now offers a wider selection as it now gives subscribers more bundles to choose from — including Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook combined with Snapchat while still offering daily, weekly, and monthly bundles.

The company’s new data tariffs will see subscribers getting slightly less data than they were getting prior to the new changes, which came into effect yesterday.

For a monthly data bouquet worth RTGS$10, a subscriber will get 270MB — which is 32,5 percent less than the 400MB a subscriber used to get for the same amount prior to the changes. Before the new tariffs, an RTGS$5 data bundle would buy 200MB, but following the changes, it will now purchase 130MB, a 35 percent decrease.

Not all bundles have been reduced though, as a subscriber who used to get a monthly bundle of 25MB for RTGS$1 will now get 50MB, if they pay RTGS$2. Those who want something close to a dollar bundle are still taken care of, as a 20MB bundle costing RTGS$0,90 is now available. This is not much of a difference to the old 25MB bundle that cost RTGS$1 prior to the new changes.

The new mix also now offers video and Wifi bouquets.

The new prices are in line with the prevailing price movements in the economy, as the loss of value in the local currency following the new monetary policy has seen suppliers effecting price increases on their products and services, as costs have gone up.

“The adjustment in prices, reflected in our new data bouquets, is a direct response to the rise in service delivery costs across the industry,” said Econet’s group Media Relations and Corporate Communications executive, Mr Fungai                        Mandiveyi.

“While the new bundles offer a lot more value than before, the floating of the local currency to the USD, which led to the devaluation of the local currency by over 300 percent and the three-fold increase in fuel prices, among many other things, have significantly increased our costs and necessitated the upward price adjustment in order for us to be able to continue to deliver quality service, and for the industry to remain viable” said Mr Mandiveyi.

Last week, state owned telecoms operator NetOne announced that it had adjusted its OneFusion data bundle, which had been heavily discounted, and was now offering less for the same amount. While the amount paid for a bundle did not change, the package now offered 83 percent less than the previous bundle.

The OneFusion Lite promotional package which costs RTGS$10, used to offer 130 on-net minutes, 25 off-net minutes, 1,1 GB of data, 100 SMSs and 450 MB of Whatsapp. But following the changes, it now offers less in a move that signals the operator’s bid to remain viable in the face of rising industry costs.

According to NetOne, the new package now offers 15 on-net minutes, 5 off-net minutes, 180 MB data bundles, 90MB Whatsapp bundles and 5 SMSs. The changes effectively mean the MNO has made an upward adjustment on its data tariffs.

Telecel has also made tariff changes which has seen data bundles being reduced and the effective data price going up. A Whatsapp weekly bundle, which used to cost RTGS$1 for 140 MB, has now been replaced by one which costs $2   for 100MB.

While consumers can ever be prepared, or gladly welcome an increase in the price or tariff of any service or product, most subscribers must have seen this one coming given the monetary and inflationary changes in the economy.

Mobile network operators do not operate in a vacuum and thus they are not immune to the economic vagaries that affect other economic players. Zimbabwe has been going through much, with the unavailability of foreign currency proving a challenge.

Central to this matter is the cost of international bandwidth, an imported commodity, which the mobile network operators must settle in scarce foreign currency.

And for mobile network operators, the need to continuously upgrade their networks, both hardware and software, the availability of foreign currency is key.

Unlike in the past, when foreign currency, if available, was at a 1:1 ratio with the local currency, the introduction of the forex interbank market has meant local players have to pay more, not less than 3.25 times currently, to access foreign currency.

In addition to the exchange rate changes, the cost of doing business in Zimbabwe has risen sharply over the recent past forcing local businesses to put up prices or tariffs.

The decision by NetOne, Telecel and now Econet, should not come as a surprise as much as it may not be initially popular with data   users.