POTRAZ needs to copy S. African regulations on data charges

Leonard Sengere Avatar

Just last week we were here ranting about out-of-bundle browsing. We were angry at mobile operators, Netone and Telecel in particular for not giving users the option to deactivate out-of-bundle browsing. Some pointed out that the anger should have been directed at POTRAZ. With ICASA, the South African equivalent of Potraz proposing changes to the very same issues we need to look at it again.

The South African regulator must have read our discussion and decided to take action (just kidding). We now need our own regulator to follow suit. Let’s go on to what ICASA is proposing.

They want the mobile operators to send SMS notifications at 50%, 75%, 90% and 100% of depletion of data, voice and SMS bundles. We, here in Zimbabwe are not really concerned about this as we already get these SMS notifications, just not at all those levels . What we might want from POTRAZ might be to ensure there are set percentages as it seems currently each operator chooses which level of depletion warrants a notification.

The big one. ICASA also wants there to be set validity periods for data bundles. They propose for example that a data bundle 500MB to 1GB in size be valid for at least 60 days. We need this in Zimbabwe too and soon. We know too well how it feels to be forced to use up your data on random downloads because your 2.5GB bundle was not used up in 30 days. If a 2.5GB bundle was valid for 90 days like ICASA is proposing you wouldn’t need to do that.

They are also proposing mobile data roll over to next month if a user recharges before expiry. This is huge too. This means if you purchase a 1GB bundle and have 200MB left as you approach the end of the month and you purchase another 1GB bundle you will have the 1GB+200MB to use in the following month. You will not lose the 200MB, it will not just expire.

In that whole out-of-bundle browsing issue, here’s the thing. Most of us techies have known to turn mobile data off before recharging and purchasing a bundle for a while now. It takes just 3 seconds as some noted. It sounds simple enough but the fact remains many of us do not know about this. We have many not-so tech savvy people, some are older and simply do not understand what you mean by ‘turn mobile data off.’

With people buying their relatives smartphones and installing WhatsApp for them we have people that just know to check their WhatsApp messages and make calls. We cannot expect everyone to know these things and if the out-of-bundle regulation helps even one person then it is worth it.

What ICASA is proposing is exactly what we need here in Zimbabwe when it comes to out-of-bundle browsing. They want the mobile operators to ‘ensure that no end user is defaulted automatically to out-of-bundle data charges upon depletion of data bundles.’ Amen to that. The mobile operator would need ‘express consent or authorisation’ from an end user first.

We applauded Econet for having the option to deactivate out-of-bundle pricing but it needs to be deactivated by default and the other operators need to offer the same. Of course we can always talk about how the data charges themselves should be revised but that’s a conversation for another day.

The proposed regulations by ICASA will come into force after consideration of comments by the general public and the mobile operators themselves. These regulations are all about protecting end users and we sorely need them here in Zimbabwe too. What we need is for our own POTRAZ to engage the public on these matters and come up with similar regulations. What do you think? Do we need these kinds of regulations? Let us know in the comments below.





  1. BaNyasha

    Definitely we really need this and more urgently. The service providers have taken us for granted for far too long.

  2. TawazNigel

    I dont blame nettwork providers, infact I commend econet for being customer focused, the problem with smartphone users is that they dont know mobile devices functionalities, they buy these expensive devices without even considering the cost they bear on software and application updates, running applications cost on their data and airtime, even if expiry of a 2G bundle is to be set up to 60 days, smartphones running applications can still deplete the whole bundle in only a day, its up to Zimbabweans to stop being ignorant and know their devices. Its so dishearting to know that a literate Zimbabwean thinks smartphone internet is only whatsapp, they do not know anything about the software and other installed and running applications, dont blame network providers, thumps up Econet, they came up with out of bundle browsing to help users manage their data, but then some dont even know its there, all they do is spend their time on whatsapp rather than taking time to learn other important things

    1. Leonard Sengere

      You are right in saying that many Zimbabweans do not take the time to understand the technology around them. Some do not understand the basic functionality on their phones as you pointed out. The considerations that one should make before purchase that you pointed out are rarely done. Most just want to be on WhatsApp and Facebook and that’s it. That is why people thought their data was disappearing, they did not understand how it all works. Then there are some who just do not have the capacity to understand all these things. People are buying their relatives (sekuru in the rural areas) phones so that they can be on WhatsApp to facilitate cheaper communication and they may not ever understand these things. The question then becomes, ‘should nothing be done to protect these people?’
      On Econet being customer focused as regards out of bundle browsing they really should be commended. The job to further protect consumers now rests on the regulator. POTRAZ.