Taurai Mangudhla

HARARE- Regulator Potraz has slashed data and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) charges by 60% effective 1 July in a move expected to reduce mobile money transaction charges and at the same time significantly cut communication costs for business and individuals.

This is part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s efforts to fulfill the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra by way of providing enablers to business, ICT Postal and Courier Services minister Supa Mandiwanzira said at the Potraz head office in Harare this morning.

While consumers are the biggest winners, mobile network operators will realise less margins on their data and voice calls while pressure now mounts on all mobile money services providers to reduce their fees.

Mobile money has, since become dominant, earning service providers significant revenues from transaction fees.

Minister Mandiwanzira said effective 1 July, out of bundle mobile data tariffs would be slashed from the current average rate of 12.5 cents per megabyte to 5 cents exclusive of all taxes, with the proposed tariff exempting data used on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other related sites in the cluster.

The latest cost model design will also see national interconnection rates being cut from the current 4 cents to 2 cents per minute and is expected to be effected across all interconnecting operators, while the thresholds for mobile voice and SMS would be reviewed in due course.

USSD charges threshold would be reduced from the current 12.5 cents per session to 5 cents exclusive of all taxes. The regulator says the move is intended to address the high transaction cost of electronic payments and increase financial inclusion.

“To ensure that the reduction benefits the transacting public, the Authority has engaged the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe who will engage Financial Service providers so that the reduction is passed on to the transacting public,” Mandiwanzira said.

Mandiwanzira said fixed voice charges, internet and data charges for internet access providers’ services have been set aside to be determined by market forces subject to regulatory approval.