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Data wars in Zimbabwe: A tale of policy, infrastructure, and economic challenges

Data Wars in Zimbabwe: A Tale of Policy, Infrastructure, and Economic Challenges

In the ongoing battle over internet costs and quality, Zimbabweans find themselves at a crossroads. The conflict between the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and the public has brought to light several critical factors that shape the digital landscape in the country.

Fair Usage Policy:

A Double-Edged Sword While South African providers like MTN boast “UNCAPPED” internet packages, the Fair Usage Policy (FUP) comes with a catch. Once users hit a certain data threshold, their speeds can plummet by up to 80%. This measure, designed to alleviate network congestion, is a common strategy among ISPs to ensure consistent service quality.

The Price of Geography:

Zimbabwe’s Costly Connection Unlike South Africa, which enjoys the benefits of a coastal location with direct access to submarine fiber optic cables, Zimbabwe’s landlocked geography presents a challenge. The need to extend fiber cables through South Africa inflates both investment and operational costs, making internet connectivity a pricey affair.

Currency Instability:

The Investor’s Dilemma The fluctuating nature of Zimbabwe’s RTGS currency adds another layer of complexity to the financial environment. This volatility discourages investment in crucial infrastructure and technology, further inflating data service costs.

Power Struggles:

The Hidden Cost of Connectivity Zimbabwe’s erratic power supply, overseen by ZESA, translates into additional operational costs. With frequent outages, base stations are forced to depend on fuel-powered generators, a more costly and maintenance-heavy solution, driving up the price of internet services.

In conclusion, the availability of uncapped data plans in both Zimbabwe and South Africa is only part of the story. The real narrative lies in the diverse costs and policies that govern these services, shaped by a mix of infrastructural, geographical, and economic factors. It is essential to fully recognise these regional disparities to fully grasp the essence of the “data wars.”