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The cost of communication

Government plans to bring in minimum tariffs for mobile phone usage will hit the poorest hardest and attack freedom of expression

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo © Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. Making mobile phone service more expensive in one of the world’s poorest countries is at once a very unfair and politically unpopular thing to do. Yet that is what the Mozambican government proposes to do next month, when minimum tariffs for mobile phone operators are expected to take effect.

The change will mean that mobile network operators’ current tariffs will be forced to rise. Although the minimum tariffs for phone calls, SMS messages and data are all lower than what operators currently charge on paper, the widespread use of free bonuses, which lower the overall cost, means that prices will have to increase to meet the minimum tariffs. They will also make it effectively impossible to provide the unlimited data, messaging or call packages that are currently available, because the regulator, the National Institute of Communications of Mozambique, is insisting that all mobile phone traffic must be metered: there must be a charge per minute, text message or megabyte of data.

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