The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) says it is reviewing proposals by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for a tariff hike in light of movement in the exchange rate as determined on the inter-bank market.

Potraz acting director general Kennedy Dewera yesterday said following the country’s Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) — which introduced an inter-bank foreign exchange market where electronic money known as Real Time Gross Settlement, bond notes and coins can be traded against other currencies at market rates — MNOs had approached the industry regulator with requests for a tariff review.

“Indeed, we have received those applications from various operators and these are still being considered by the authority.

“You may be aware that there have been developments in the economy and those developments impact on the decisions to be made by the regulator,” he said on behalf of Potraz boss Gift Machengete, who is representing Zimbabwe at the mobile world congress in Barcelona, at a value added services workshop in the capital.

Introduction of the interbank market was a departure from the central bank’s long maintained position that the local currency was at par with the US dollar although on the black market the currency traded at higher rates to the greenback.

According to central bank governor John Mangudya, the exchange rate debuted at 2,50 against the United States dollar, lower than black market rates of around 3,50, with the new tariff anticipated to reflect this reality.

Dewera said he was not in a position to give a time frame when the watchdog may have a final position on the tariff matter, given wide consultations had to be concluded before a decision could be reached.

“So these factors are still being looked at within the timeframe that the regulator can consider them. It is difficult to give the exact time when we can expect a final position as the process isn’t entirely up to the regulators, we have to consult extensively. But when the analysis has been done it will be taken to the operators,” the acting Potraz boss said.

Dumisani Nkala, a business development manager with Telco, said the local tariffs were already the most expensive in the region.

“If you look at what Zimbabwe is charging, the estimates are that we are five times higher. But operators may be asking for a tariff review because of their cost structures and obtaining economic conditions,” she said.

However, Spencer Manguwa NetOne executive customer experience said the tariff was long over-due given Zimbabwe’s difficult macro-economic environment.

“It is all because of the high operating costs and expenses we incur as organisations. We are not being exempt from the harsh economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

“We are also saying it’s very important that we remain viable and meet our obligations, not just to the consumer but to stakeholders and shareholders, therefore the tariff increase becomes imperative to match economic developments and changes” he said.

This comes as Zimbabwe’s largest mobile network services provider Econet Wireless on Tuesday announced an adjustment in tariffs for roaming and international calling services to reflect movement in the exchange rate as determined on the inter-bank market.Dailynews