The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) says it is engaging operators to reduce data prices in the country.
In an interview on Tuesday, Macra director general Henry Shamu said information and communications technology (ICT) has become essential, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when people rely on Internet for meetings.
He said: “Macra’s mandate and role is to ensure that communication services are affordable throughout Malawi and are sufficient to meet the demands at all times. This is why Macra channels concerns of consumers to operators and for redress.
“Having received complaints from consumers and a policy directive from government to have data prices go down, Macra has been working tirelessly with operators to have data prices go down to ensure that government policy of affordable data rates is achieved and consumers are happy.”
Figures from Macra show that in 2019, Airtel plc reduced its Pay as You Go (Paygo) data prices from K31.5 per megabyte (MB) to K15 per MB while TNM plc reduced its rate from K33 per MB to K25 per MB.
Recently, Airtel plc and TNM plc also reduced their Paygo rates by 67 percent and 70 percent from K15 to K5 and K25 to K7.50 per MB, respectively.
Currently, one gigabyte (GB) at Airtel costs K5 000 while at TNM it costs K7 500.
“This is still on the higher side for an average Malawian. This is why Macra is still working with the operators to make sure that data is further reduced and is affordable for an average Malawian.
“In the meantime, the authority continues to monitor quality of service such as Internet speeds currently at 4G [LTE] and a smooth supply of Internet services to consumers at all times,” he said.
Figures from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) indicate that Internet affordability is achieved when 1GB of data is bought at two percent of the monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita.
At the moment, Malawi’s GNI per capita is $380 (K281 200), translating to $31.67 (K23 435) per month.
ICT Association of Malawi president Bram Fudzulani told The Nation last week that while the association wants data prices to fall, they want operators to remove expiry dates on data bundles, as is the case with Kenya, Uganda and South Africa.
Minister of Information Gospel Kazako earlier agreed that data tariffs are too high for a developing nation such as Malawi.
Last month, some civil society organisations asked government to push for a reduction in cost of ICT services, especially the Internet, following a suspension of physical meetings amid Covid-19.
Currently, mobile operators are charged 17.5 percent VAT on mobile phones and services while 16.5 percent is charged on Internet services.