Following the example of its neighbour South Africa, where MTN Group, Vodacom, Telkom, Liquid Telecom and Rain Networks have all been granted temporary additional spectrum, Zimbabwe has also announced plans to free up spectrum for emergency use.
The Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has allocated free wireless spectrum on a time-limited basis to the country’s three mobile network operators – Econet, NetOne and Telecel – in order to help them cope with increased demand for bandwidth during the coronavirus epidemic. Operators will be assigned additional 3G and 4G spectrum until December to help them to deliver data at a time when demand is much higher than usual.
As one commentator pointed out, this will also help customers who want to do business online but are trying to cope with limited income. Not just end users but businesses and schools, many of which have increased their online presence, are likely to join operators in welcoming the enhanced bandwidth provision.
However, this new development comes just after Econet raised data prices by 225 percent. In fact such rises in data costs could undermine government efforts to encourage internet access in Zimbabwe, where income and salaries have remained static. Meanwhile inflation and devaluation of the local currency against the US dollar have further added to the woes of the owners of the country’s 13 million or more mobile subscriptions.