Zimbabwe’s mobile network operators are advocating for a ban on Over The Top Services (OTTs) after it emerged they were losing significant revenues as subscribers increasingly abandon voice calls for cheaper alternatives.
The operators have decried the loss of US$26 million, about ZAR390 million, in the wake of the advent of OTTs such as Immo, WhatsApp and Skype.
This has denied government some $4 million in potential tax revenue collection from the three operators – Econet, NetOne and Telecel Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans, who are searing under economic challenges with unemployment hovering above 85 percent and rising voice and data tariffs, are exploring other possible communication channels.
Supa Mandiwanzira, Zimbabwe Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Service, confirms the concerns raised by the mobile operators.
“All networks (Econet, NetOne and Telecel) have approached my office to say we need to do something about this because the investment that we put in infrastructure is not going to be recouped because a lot of our revenue is now being lost,” says Mandiwanzira.
He says a total of 186 million minutes, equivalent to $26 million, about ZAR390 million, were lost in the process as subscribers turned to OTTs.
“There was evidence that the entire sector is bleeding as a result of OTTs,” says Mandiwanzira.
He says the government was yet to make the pronouncement over the proposal by the telcos to ban OTTs.
Zimbabwe, with a population of 14 million, has a mobile penetration rate of 97 percent, according to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.