Mozambique regulator told to drop mobile tariff changes

Mozambique regulator told to drop mobile tariff changes

A puzzling chain of events has seen the Mozambican government suspend the new mobile communications tariffs which its own regulatory body for telecommunications had decided were necessary on 2 May.

The Club of Mozambique news service notes that at a recent weekly meeting of the cabinet the government had asked regulator the National Communications Institute (INCM) to explain its new tariffs for internet, voice and SMS services. It then recommended that the INCM suspend the new prices and review the study it had used to calculate them.

The INCM must now meet telecommunications operators and inform them of the government’s decision. The operators will be allowed to revert to the previous tariffs.

There appear to have been a number of conflicting claims from the INCM justifying its original move, notably that it intervened to ensure the sustainability of the telecommunications market, and to avoid any collapse. Earlier this month the telecoms regulator had instructed operators to withdraw unlimited data and voice packages to avoid the collapse of the market and unfair competition.

But there appears to have been no such concern cited by the country’s operators themselves, although it is apparently true that there are a bewildering variety of packages and bonuses offered by the three mobile phone companies (TMcel, Vodacom and Movitel). Nor had any company requested a tariff rise.

More confusingly, the INCM chairperson, Thua Mote, apparently also claimed that the new tariffs would reduce prices and would allow greater “digital inclusion” even though, by definition, the elimination of unlimited packages would result in the setting of minimum tariffs by the INCM that would not necessarily work out cheaper.

Thus consumers decided that the INCM had in fact increased prices.

In the end, a wave of protests, including a march to the INCM Maputo headquarters on 18 May, led the government to instruct the INCM to drop its plans.

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