Airtime, a silent day-to-day expense

HARARE – Advancing technologies have necessitated that airtime has become a basic commodity people buy for communication every other minute of the day to keep abreast with latest trends, news and information around the globe.

The increasing number of cell phones, social media networks and internet users is of evident consumption of airtime is also on the increase.

Normally, cell phone users do not realise they spend more on it than what they might probably be spending on bread everyday.

Airtime is a silent expense and recording every dollar voucher you buy could account to shocking figures when all dollars are summed at the end of the month.

The number of vendors selling airtime on the streets has since trebled as the demand for the commodity continues to rise.

Since the reduction of sim card to less than a dollar, mobile phones have become gadgets many Zimbabweans own — from rural areas to mining communities.

Mobile phones also double as a bank through the Ecocash facility; it has become easier for rural folks and those from other marginalised areas to send and receive money through their phones.

While every morning people wake up to buy newspapers — something that has for many become addictive, there are others who find themselves buying airtime.

Many have access to the web using their phones and the facility is not cheap at all.

Local celebrities offered varied views about the issue — with some saying their airtime bills were as much as $500 per month — at least before social networks have become popular.

One such celebrity was Peter ‘‘Young Igwe’’ Moyo who said he spends more than $70 every week on either of his two lines.

“I have two network lines, one that I use to communicate with my fans and another one for business. I receive close to 500 messages from my fans every day and I make sure I reply all of them.

“I also have two managers that I give $20 airtime every week for business operations and my other line uses about $80. I never used to calculate that but if you put the figures together, it’s about $500 per month.”

Peter said airtime was a necessary expense and urged artistes to have lines through which they interact with their fans.

“Airtime probably consumes much of our money, but it also facilitates effective and easy communication.

“It is also important to have a network line your fans use to easily get access to you— as a platform to get feedback and interact with our fans,” he said.

Flamboyant businessman Phillip Chiyangwa said he does not monitor his airtime bills and pays a lot of money to telecommunication firms for his cell phone bills.

“You know what; airtime is one expense I don’t even consider. I have a Telecel, Buddie and Net*One line. I make sure I return every call that I miss and because of the nature if my businesses, it’s complicated to calculate how much I use per day or month,” he said.

Gospel diva Olivia Charamba said airtime expenses are inevitable because the music industry thrives through communication and cell phones are the most utilised medium.

“As musicians we can never avoid airtime expenses. We usually communicate and plan shows using our cell phones. I have a personal line that I don’t normally use, but the contract line meant for business usually consumes about $120 every month,” she said.

However, other celebrities were quick to point a reduction in their consumption rates — courtesy of Whatsapp.

Dynamos footballer Murape Murape said he barely uses more than $40 every month because he now uses the application which charges less than a $0,01 per message.

“I usually buy $1 or $2 airtime everyday because most of the people I communicate with use the Whatsapp and it charges very little. By end of month I will have spent about $40.

Veteran actress Pretty Xaba echoed similar sentiments and said her average monthly consumption was around $30.

“These days I use very little airtime sometimes a dollar’s airtime can spill into the following day. We now have the advantage of Whatsapp which consumes very little airtime and everyone is now using it.”

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