A week ago, TNM reduced its pay-as-you-go data tariff per gigabyte (GB) from K 25,000 to K7,670.
TNM was responding to demands by the public and minister of information for cheaper and affordable data rates dubbed ‘Let Data Fall’.
The reduction meant that Airtel’s pay-as-you-go rate which was erstwhile much cheaper would suddenly be 50 percent higher than TNM’s. A few days later, Airtel came up with own checkmate; a reduction from K 15,000 for a gigabyte to K 5,000 for the same.
We are back to square one; Airtel is cheaper on pay-as-you-go. How is this helpful to the consumer?
In the first place, the reason why we have more than one operator is to allow for fierce competition. As operators undercut each other on pricing, the consumer benefits.
Airtel upped the ante by increasing the value of some of the lower-end popular bundles. From the August 3, 2020 you will now get 25 MB instead of 15 MB on the K100 bundle. You will also get 17 percent more data on the K 1,000 WhatsApp bundle.
You will have probably noticed that both Airtel and TNM talk about cost per megabyte yet I talk about cost per gigabyte.
There is more that you can do with a GB worth of data than an MB. Whether it is 15 MB or 25 MB, I can only check my email and perhaps check my goodreads accountwith it and thus it.
To put it into perspective, a megabyte of data is not a loaf of bread but morsels of it but a gigabyte of data is. In countries like Nigeria, the same Airtel sells affordable data in gigabytes. 15 GB data bundle sells for N1,000. Naira is stronger than Kwacha, about twice as much. That means that 15 GB costs about K 2,000 there. In Malawi, same 15 GB bundle costs K 19,000.
I accept that Malawi is landlocked and that it costs more to bring the internet here but this disparity is gargantuan.
All I am trying to say is that it is possible for one gigabyte of data to cost K 500.
Pay-as-you-go is, for lack of a better word, evil way to sell data. People use this expensive cost model without knowing. If you do not have an active bundle, your device automatically switches to this mode if data is on. You may not be using the internet but some apps are always doing some background work that involves data.
Whilst Malawians are doing a wonderful job in squeezing operators to reduce data prices, Malawians must take the battle to government for tax reduction on data and to Macra for license fee reduction to operators.
As long as data does not go down to less than K500 per gigabyte, the battle is not won just yet.