POTRAZ has announced that it will be banning all over the top service bundles for applications like WhatsApp, Facebook and Opera Mini.
Network operators who are providing these services have been given 7 days to comply and they are also to ensure that subscribers are informed with compensation provided for everyone affected by the sudden termination of the service.
The information which was shared in a statement issued to all telecoms operators comes in the wake of an International Telecommunications Union (ITU) resolution passed the 24th of March 2016, which compelled all member countries to uphold a new convention on internet access standards.
The effect of the resolution has been a series of changes to internet access regulations across the world, with Zimbabwe becoming the third country in Sub-Saharan Africa to put it into effect.
This cause has however not been fully embraced by local mobile operators who had been relying on services like WhatsApp and Facebook bundles as a way of generating revenue after Zimbabweans had ditched traditionally lucrative services like voice calling and SMS.
Commenting on this development, a senior telecommunications executive (name withheld) expressed his disappointment over this development.
This new motion will have a negative impact on Zimbabwean internet use. It does more harm than good. While it’s obvious that we introduced these bundles as a way of squeezing revenue from WhatsApp and all these other disruptive apps, these bundles have helped introduce more people to the internet and maintain revenues that benefit the government through taxes.POTRAZ should know this better than everyone else. Perhaps they should just ban WhatsApp instead.
The bundles have also been a great buffer for Zimbabweans hard worn by a tough economy. Rather than pay for huge amounts of data every month to stay connected, subscribers only need $3 a month to remain active on WhatsApp, something which has resulted in WhatsApp bundles becoming the most popular service accessed via the internet in Zimbabwe.
While efforts to get a comment from POTRAZ or the Ministry of ICT have been fruitless, it is understood that the mobile operators have since mounted an appeal with the Minister of ICT Supa Mandiwanzira to have the resolution amended before the 7 day period is up.