Mobile data costs slashed | Sunday Standard
Thursday, July 2, 2020

Mobile data costs slashed

Mobile network operators have slashed prices across their key data products and services, in a move expected to increase affordable internet connectivity and keep the mobile wars going. 

The three operators, Mascom, orange and BTC Mobile, experienced increased data connectivity this year following the outbreak of Covid19, which offered a silver lining for the Telco’s. Some measures put in place to limit the movement and interaction of people in efforts to curb the spread of the virus resulted in people working from homes thus requiring more than usual usage of internet connectivity.

During the lockdown, which ran from early April to mid-May, consumers complained of the high data costs, spurring the minister of Transport and Communication to announce that internet prices will be reduced, offering the first glimpse into behind the scenes negotiations between the MNOs and government regulators. 

As of this week, Orange and Mascom made changes to their data pricing, offering more internet bundles for a lesser cost. The top two companies were playing catch up to BTC Mobile, which already had lower pricing across its bundles. 

According to Botswana Household Access to Information and Communication Technology statistics for 2019, which surveyed nearly 668,387 households, 63.5 percent of the households had access to internet, registering a tremendous growth of 72.4 percent from 2014. The survey further found out that 91.1 percent of households accessed internet through their phones. 

The data from the survey also revealed that there are 569,991 Batswana who had access to mobile cellular phones. Still, Statistics Botswana’s Information and Communication Technology brief  for last year’s third quarter (Q3 2019) shows that mobile subscriptions were recorded at 3.8 million at the three mobile operators.

With a population of approximately 2.4 million, the data puts the country’s mobile penetration rate in excess of 200 percent – a figure that is thrice the average for other African countries – and way over the world’s average which is projected to grow to 63.4 percent in 2019. 

The high mobile penetration is the result of the country’s dual simcard market, where consumers hold multiple numbers from the three mobile network operators. While the subscriptions have significantly increased in 2019’s three quarters, industry players had warned that the numbers will drastically drop following proposed regulatory changes which will be implemented. 

In March 2019, the ministry of Transport and Communications disclosed to parliament that BOCRA, will implement the mobile number portability (MNP) in the 2019/2020 financial year, but as that financial year comes to an end this month, the project is yet to take off . 

The implementation of MNP will allow customers to switch between wireless carriers without fear of losing their numbers, something which has been a stumbling block.

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