Over the past few quarters, mobile operators in Zimbabwe have continually complained about declining revenues which are majorly as a result of an increased usage of messaging apps especially Whatsapp and a steady decline of voice calls.
There was a total decline of 16.6% in the voice-related services between Q4 of 2014 and Q1 of 2015 while there was a decline of 1.7% in the number of total active internet subscriptions. Internet penetration reduced from 45% to 44.3% due to the decline in number of total active internet subscriptions. Despite the decline, there was an increase of 0.5% in the total number of active subscribers and the level of internet penetration from 90.3% to 90.8% within the same time frame.
Notwithstanding 14.2% decline in overall revenue for all the operators, the amount of money made from internet subscriptions increased slightly and this is attributed to the rise of apps like Whatsapp and Viber. Cheap Whatsapp-specific packages are being blamed for these and the Postal & Telecomms Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has asked for suggestions on how to deal with the issue and the operators will mostly likely call for a total ban as the options are not viable for them. It is not known whether the government may or may not support such a move though.
The government will also be looking for a way to protect the interests of these operators who are paying a huge amount of money into its coffers. While Zimbabwe will not be the first country to ban Whatsapp, it may be the first country to put its financial interest and that of the mobile operators ahead of that of its citizens.