HARARE, January 24 (The Source) – Communications Regulators Association of Southern Africa (Crasa) says it plans to set up a mechanism for enforcing universal mobile data tariffs for countries in the region by 2019.
Speaking on the sidelines of a regional committee meeting on Tuesday, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s Richard Makgotlho, who chairs the Crasa subcommittee on electronic communication, said the initiative will ensure that mobile data charges are uniform and affordable in all Sadc countries.
“We are coming up with guidelines to enforce reduction of data and voice prices. We want to make sure that mobile operators are encouraged to reduce data prices and if they cannot do that on their own we will then come up with a regulation that will restrict and force them to do so,” said Makgotlho.
The cost of data has become an emotive issue in the region but notably in Zimbabwe and South Africa, sparking off the #DataMustFall hashtag.
Zimbabwe’s data tariffs are among the highest in the region with a gigabyte of data costing a minimum of $20 while neighbouring countries like South Africa and Zambia charge $10 and $13 respectively. In India, it costs less than a dollar.
International Telecommunications Union (ITU) representative for Southern Africa, Chali Tumelo said high mobile data charges were influenced by a shift by consumers from voice calls to mobile data for communication.
“The problem is that data is riding on the infrastructure that was initially meant for voice calls and slowly voice is dying out with data coming in. The owners of infrastructure would want to make more money but are facing losses on the voice calls so they are trying to make profits on data,” said Tumelo.