By Gladys Kole
The two leading telecommunications companies MTN and Zain have as of yesterday implemented the last phase of the tariff adjustment to align with the official Central Bank exchange rate of USD for services as guided by the national communications authority.
The final increment for the internet and voice bundles will be implemented to match with the current official rate of the Bank of South Sudan from SSP 300 per 1 USD, to SSP 618.75 per 1 USD.
In the region South Sudan tops the highest internet costs currently, after the two leading telecom company’s Zain and MTN implemented the final increment of data tariff rates effective as of November 15th.
The telecommunication networks started implementing the tariff exchange rate on September 15, and in phases for a period of three months until yesterday when they made the final phase.
Speaking to No.1 Citizen Daily Newspaper upon this final adjustment of the tariffs, some members of the public poured out their frustrations blaming the government rather than the telecom operators.
The increment has come in such a very hard time when the economy is ailing and things are very hard.
Some of the subscribers described the situation as a broad day robbery citing that even the services of this telecommunications companies are not up to the standard.
They also said that they don’t blame the telecom companies much but rather it’s the government at fault citing unfavorable policies of the government, saying they (government) might be taxing this telecommunications companies highly as this companies might be looking at aspects of how to maintain their businesses in terms of recovering the costs.
“All in all, it goes back to the government because the government is the neutralizing body, if the taxes are leveraged on them highly and they kept the tariffs constantly then they might not meet their running costs, so I believe this might be the effect of high taxation,” said a prominent business owner who chose anonymity for sensitivity of the matter.
“You cannot see your citizens being exploited and you do nothing about it, if you are not benefiting from it because they know that the telecommunication companies are few, one way or another people will always use them for the sake of easing communication,” he said.
As for AKJ, a local musician has a contrary view to the probably majority customers who are bitter about the increment.
The artist said that, he is very comfortable with the increments and in fact advocated for the local telecom, Digitel to also increase its tariffs arguing that people are misusing the internet.
He perceived that the girls at the adolescent stage most of them are getting spoilt with the internet, especially the social media platforms.
“Because if internet is cheap, they can afford to get airtime to communicate easily things that are not of importance so on that angle to a larger extent increment is of an advantage” said AKJ.
He argued that if internet is expensive, it limits communication “we just communicate simply and precisely, it can improve business” he said.
With the latest tariff increment minimum daily internet bundles of 100 MBS have now increased from 250 pounds in September to 515 pounds for MTN, and at a similar rate for Zain.
Weekly subscriptions for 1 GB of internet bundles have also been raised from 2,120 in September to 4,370 in November.
Meanwhile the two telecom companies have also doubled their subscription cost for voice bundles, Zain and MTN customers will now need around 100 U.S dollars to subscribe to 12 GB MTN monthly bundles.
This comes after the national communication authority approved a request from MTN and Zain to adjust tariff rates for mobile network operators from SSP 300 per 1 US dollars to the current Central Bank rate of 600 pounds per dollar.
The adjustment to the current Central Bank rate of 600 per us dollar was triggered by the inflation of the local currency.
It is expected to significantly increase the cost of mobile airtime and internet data, making communication unbearable for users.
One gigabyte for mobile internet in South Sudan has risen to 7 US dollars equivalent to 4,370ssp while it only costs as average of 0.84 us dollars in neighboring Kenya.
The same data statistic also indicates that the same 1 GB costs just 0.75 U.S. dollars in the Sudan and 1.32 U.S. dollars in Uganda, putting MTN South Sudan expensive in the region.
Meanwhile efforts to reach the Director General of the National Communication Authority (NCA) for Comment on the matter were not immediately successful by press time as the D.G Napoleon Adok earlier said he was in a court attendance and hence requested to be reached later which never yielded fruit.