POTRAZ Clarifies Data Costs And Starlink

Source: POTRAZ Clarifies Data Costs And Starlink

The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has said there are a lot of misconceptions about data tariffs in the country.

This follows recent social media posts claiming that Zimbabwe’s data costs are higher than those of neighbouring nations.

In a statement, POTRAZ director-general Gift Machengete said POTRAZ evaluates tariffs based on out-of-bundle charges or headline tariffs.

He said these reflect the actual cost of providing services and help balance affordability and operator viability. Said Machengete:

The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe would like to clarify the perception that tariffs are expensive in Zimbabwe when compared to regional peers.

This follows recent social media posts, some with unsubstantiated figures which portrayed Data / Internet services to be the highest in the region.

First, it is necessary to reveal that tariff comparisons that are done by POTRAZ are based on out of bundle tariffs or headline tariffs for the various offers in the region.

This is because out of bundle charges are more reflective of the cost of providing services, which enables the Authority to balance service affordability and operator viability. Hence it is the most objective criteria for comparison purposes.

Machengete argued that data bundles, often discounted and bundled with extras, do not accurately represent service costs, saying they serve promotional purposes, including customer acquisition and retention. He said:

The Authority refrains from using data bundles for comparison purposes as this may be misleading. This is because bundled services are normally discounted and may come with “freebies” and “fringes” whose intrinsic value may be cumbersome to quantify.

Hence bundled services do not necessarily reflect the cost of providing services but are promotional in nature as they are designed for business strategic reasons which include customer acquisition and retention, amongst others.

The POTRAZ boss also stated that when comparing services, it’s essential to consider the same type (e.g., mobile, fixed, or satellite data). Factors like speed, latency, validity period, and fair use policies impact service value. He said:

It is also important to compare like with like, such that if one is comparing mobile data, let it be so, without mixing up with fixed and satellite data service offerings, as the cost of providing the different types of services may differ, even within the same country.

Even when comparing fixed Internet/Data packages, it is necessary to consider factors such as speed, latency, validity period and fair use policies, which have a bearing on the value of service to consumers.

On the issue of Starlink, Machengete said POTRAZ is not blocking the internet service provider.

He said although Starlink has expressed interest in providing services in Zimbabwe, they have not completed the necessary licensing process. As a result, their current service offering in Zimbabwe is unauthorised.

Machengete warned that using Starlink in Zimbabwe without a valid license will violate the law and those who do so will face legal consequences. He said:

The Authority would like to categorically state that it is not blocking Starlink in anyway. POTRAZ would like to reveal that Starlink is not yet licensed to provide services in Zimbabwe.

They have expressed interest to offer services in Zimbabwe and have been provided with all the relevant information for them to apply. They have not yet done so.

This means that their service offering in Zimbabwe is illegal because for as long as they remain without a licence.
Therefore, anyone found using Starlink in Zimbabwe will be in breach of the law and will face the consequences in accordance with the law. The public should be so guided.

He advised the public and stakeholders not to rely on flawed information aimed at unduly influencing policy and regulatory decisions but to verify details with POTRAZ to avoid panic.