HIGH tariffs, erratic network in rural areas and unexplained airtime deductions have dominated the challenges faced by Muchinga Province subscribers of the country's three mobile phone service providers.
The challenges were raised at consumer awareness public forums held by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) in Chinsali, Mpika, Nakonde and Isoka last week.
Nakonde District Administrative Officer Evans Mpande wondered why tariffs were so high in Zambia compared to other countries in the region.
ZICTA consumer protection officer Edgar Mlauzi explained that the authority would soon conduct a cost of service study and engage stakeholders to revise tariffs in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector.
Mr Mlauzi said it was from a similar cost of service study conducted previously to assess the ICT sector cost models that service providers were able to reduce their tariffs.
Previously, SIM cards were costing over K300 but now they fetch a paltry K5 while service providers no longer demand that subscribers use their credit within a week or forfeit it.
On the erratic network, Mr Mlauzi said the problem would soon be history given that ZICTA had embarked on an exercise to erect communication towers in chiefdoms which will be used by all mobile phone service providers.
The authority intends to put up 500 communication towers by 2016 and so far 169 have been installed across the country in a bid to reach out to unserved and poorly served areas.
Responding to an Isoka subscriber who wondered why service providers charged more for calls made across networks, ZICTA consumer protection officer Kennedy Kapembwa said it was due the interconnection fee the providers bill each other.
Mr Kapembwa also said some subscribers were losing airtime in unexplained circumstances due to active internet based applications on their devices as well as borrowing talk time.
A Mpika resident asked why ZICTA had failed to block some social media websites that were fond of attacking people who had no platform to hit back.
ZICTA cyber security officer Nawa Samatebele said aggrieved victims could write the owners of the website or the host of platform on which the slanderous article is published such as Facebook.
Mr Samatebele noted that most online publications hide in being hosted outside the country where ZICTA has no jurisdiction but that they could still be sued.
He added that consumers of ICTs must acquire software to protect their devices from cyber crime adding that it was cheaper to prevent oneself from a cyber attack than to pay dearly if an unsecured device was hacked into.