Telecoms operators can now peg tariffs on exchange rate, and that means higher call and data charges for you

Zimbabweans will now pay more to make calls and use the internet after the telecoms regulator authorised operators to peg their tariffs at the official exchange rate and in US dollars.

In a notice to operators on Wednesday, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), said operators may now use dual pricing on their tariffs. This is in line with exchange rate rules announced at the end of March and effected by Statutory Instrument 185 issued Friday.

To determine the level of USD tariffs, companies have been directed to convert the current tariffs by 25, which was the exchange rate that applied in March, when tariffs were last increased.

“In order to facilitate dual pricing under the new exchange rate regime, the authority hereby advises all licences postal and telecommunication operators that the implementation of the dual pricing system shall entail converting the current ZWL tariffs to USD denominated tariffs at an exchange rate of USD1:ZWL25 to arrive at the base USD denominated tariffs,” POTRAZ said.

“The USD denominated base tariffs will then be converted at the ruling exchange rate as determined by the auction system, to arrive at ZWL denominated tariffs.”

The exchange rate from the last auction is 1:72.1470.

For users on Econet, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, this means a call will now cost just over ZWL$4 per minute from ZWL$1.50.

An Econet-to-Econet call will be US6 cents per minute.

TelOne, the fixed line operator, now charges just under US4 cents per and ZWL$2.71 minute for a call to a landline. That’s up from ZWL$94 cents. A call from landline to mobile is now just under US6 cents and ZWL$4.16 per minute. TelOne data prices are also up.

POTRAZ says the tariffs will rise depending on the size of the exchange rate movements, but does not give a range.

“The ZWL denominated tariffs shall be reviewed from time to time in line with the auction determined exchange rate movements, as and when necessary, depending on the magnitude of the movements,” POTRAZ says.

Zimbabwe’s telecoms companies have been seeking tariff hikes to cover for rising operating costs. While operators have been charging tariffs in the local currency, the bulk of their costs are in US dollars.

At the peak of the power crisis in 2019, Econet warned that it was “increasingly becoming untenable and uneconomical for Econet to guarantee a reasonable grade of service and optimal network uptime under the current conditions.”