South Sudanese react to surge in telecommunication fees

South Sudanese citizens in Juba and across the nation have expressed dismay over the recent surge in communication and internet bundle fees by telecommunication companies. MTN, Zain, and other companies have raised their charges due to the current inflation in the country.

South Sudanese citizens in Juba and across the nation have expressed dismay over the recent surge in communication and internet bundle fees by telecommunication companies. MTN, Zain, and other companies have raised their charges due to the current inflation in the country.

Zuma Emmanuel, a resident of Munuki, shared his surprise upon noticing the increased charges for digital daily internet bundles. Speaking exclusively to Radio Tamazuj, he stated, “This increase is going to impact many people, especially business individuals who rely on continuous communication.”

The current charges for Digital daily internet bundles are as follows: 25MB at 215 SSP, 50MB at 430 SSP, 75MB at 630 SSP, 150MB at 1,160 SSP, 350MB at 2,500 SSP, and 650MB at 4,500 SSP respectively. Additionally, 1GB of data is priced at 6,100 SSP.

Zuma emphasized that telecommunication companies should have provided advance notice to customers about the impending tariff adjustments. He stated, “They should inform customers one or two months in advance about the new charges. It’s unfair to implement changes abruptly without prior notification.”

He expressed concern that this could adversely affect businesses, as many traders may need to raise their service charges, particularly those heavily reliant on the internet. “For us, at the business level, it’s becoming very challenging to manage,” he explained. “Most of our operations require communication. Whether it’s sending technicians, services, or emails, all of these tasks require data. But with the increasing costs, we may have to pass on these expenses to clients.”

“All these additional expenses will eventually be passed on to the clients, especially at the business level. Moreover, our ability to grow is now hindered,” he added. “It’s really tough.”

He urged the government, particularly the National Communication Authority (NCA), to ensure that tariffs remain affordable for the general population. “We are pleading with the government to engage with these companies and regulate them to prevent such issues in the future. This will provide clarity for both businesses and the public,” Zuma explained.

Lack of prior notification of fee increase

Henry Taban, another resident who also uses MTN, stated that he received no prior notice of the increase. He only became aware when his 300MB data was quickly depleted.

“I just noticed these changes yesterday, but I must say these charges are excessive. Companies like MTN, Zain, and Digital shouldn’t raise tariffs to a level where ordinary citizens can’t afford them,” Taban expressed. “Once these tariffs go beyond a certain point, many people won’t be able to communicate, and we all know communication is crucial in our daily lives.”

“What I’ve also observed is that despite the significant increase in charges, the consumption rate remains high. You subscribe to data or minutes, and before you know it, it’s gone,” he added. “So, my plea to the government is to address this issue.”

Concerns echoed across South Sudan

South Sudanese citizens who subscribe to telecommunication companies like Digital, MTN, and Zain have voiced their grievances over increased fees starting from April 30th due to ongoing inflation.

William British, a member of the disability community, expressed his concerns, saying, “These companies are now burdening us. For those of us who can’t afford it, communication will become difficult. It will personally affect me and others like me during this economic hardship.”

Lobalu Peter, a resident of Ikotos County, explained, “Yes, I’ve experienced it. It will affect communication because we won’t be able to communicate as much as before. It will also affect our finances because internet usage will quickly deplete our funds. If we have important information to convey, it may not be possible due to these limitations.”

Wani Yussuf, a resident of Juba, shared his thoughts on the increase, stating, “This increment will impact citizens, especially considering the previous rate hikes. With poor internet quality, it feels like we’re losing out twice.”

Peter Majak Deng explained that, “Yes, I got the increment that MTN has made and Zain plus digital. Actually, I did not, I did not check very well the rest of the lines, but MTN is what I use mostly. And when I got it, it was shocking because, you know, you could, you could buy like one GB for 5 hours with 1,830 SSP, but now it has increased up to like 1,840, which is really. I don’t understand that level of increment. So personally, it is going to affect my work because I used to subscribe like two times a day and that would be like 2,060 pounds and for 5 hours, 5 hours, like 10 hours. So that will keep me active if there’s nothing much I’m doing like downloading stuff.”

Majak further explained, “So, this is, this is actually going to affect using more than 3,000 a day for the Internet. Is, is not, it’s not something easy and people are not at the same level. There are people who would not complain about this, but I see it as very, very challenging and it will affect a lot of work that is done on the Internet. So, one thing that beats my understanding is if all the network has increased at the same time, the same rate, you know, in business you don’t, you don’t agree to do something with your competitor. So, where the, whether the promotion aspect of the business where you have to favour the customers so that you get your customers.”

“So why would all the lines, all the communication companies join together like this. It is like a collaboration against the citizens by the way, where they agree to, you know, determine the fate of citizens regarding the communication tariffs. So, this is going to affect. And I really don’t know how things will be,” he stated.

Akuot Thon Leek stated that “Inflation in the economy of South Sudan has not only affected its citizens economically, but socially as well.” He added that, “Big telecommunication companies such as MTN Digital and Zain have decided to increase their Internet bundles. I think we’ve all experienced this. Majority of us who are in Zain, we use Malian. Malian used to cost, let’s say 500 SSP for 500 MBs and that can take you for hours, like, let’s say 5 hours.”

Akuot further added, “But now Malian is 980. It costs 980 SSP, which is very costly. We know the dollar, we know the value of pounds is deprecated. And if you go to MTN, for those who use Zolkebir on MTN, Zolkebir is now 1,900 SSP. And if you are to use the Internet the whole day, you will find that you might use even more than 15,000 SSP a day, which is very costly.”