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SA’s big telcos take #DataMustFall trend further

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 06 Apr 2021

Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C have dropped their data prices, saying the reduced rates will drive digital transformation in response to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three are slashing prices on a number of products. Vodacom reduced costs by a further 14%, on the same day MTN started offering a new “more affordable” range of capped broadband plans, while Telkom launched its new prepaid plan, Thola More, which includes data and extra SMS and calling benefits.

The latest price reductions come several months after the mobile operators were ordered by the Competition Commission (CompCom) to slash the costs of data.

The CompCom recommended that MTN and Vodacom reduce their mobile data pricing by half after the anti-trust body had been involved in tense discussions with operators over the cost of data.

In terms of the agreement, MTN undertook to reduce the price of 30-day prepaid bundles up to 1GB, with the 1GB monthly bundle being reduced to R99, and Vodacom also reached a multi-year agreement with the CompCom, promising to reduce monthly data bundles by over 30%.

Now, the three telcos independently say they are implementing new pricing regimes that will help consumers respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vodacom’s latest price reduction includes the frequently purchased 1GB bundle, which is now R85, a 14% reduction from R99.

As part of these price adjustments, Vodacom is also allocating up to 33% more data on selected 30-day bundles, which it says will promote digital inclusion and assist its 43 million customers in making savings during the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown.

“For the past four years, we have remained relentless and consistent in our approach to democratise access by bringing about affordable mobile prices,” says Jorge Mendes, chief officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business.

“Our aim in reducing these prices is to ensure customers are constantly connected on SA’s leading network. Our purpose is to connect for a better future and ensure no one is left behind in this new digital age. It is one of the most critical ways we believe we can create a more equal society for all.”

SA’s leading operator has also re-introduced the 30-day 2GB bundle at R159, saying it gives customers wider choice and more value. Tariffs on the 50MB, 3GB, 5GB, 10GB and 20GB 30-day bundles remain unchanged.

Similarly, MTN announced a new fixed long-term evolution (LTE) plan that includes a new promotional price entry point for MyMTN Home of R269 for 120GB. A new 500GB plan is also added at R699 over 24 months, including a fixed LTE WiFi router.

Mapula Bodibe, chief consumer officer of MTN SA, says: “Our commitment is to drive connectivity to support the growing work-from-home world through multiple entry points and channels. Established, young and growing businesses looking for acceleration will also benefit, as will those seeking to connect remote branches.”

Telkom, which recently recorded robust mobile growth through its broadband push, launched a new tariff plan dubbed Thola More.

The new prepaid plan replaces the company’s voice-focused offering – SIM Sonke − to include data and extra SMS and calling benefits.

Telkom Thola More is a prepaid tariff plan that offers prepaid customers additional free benefits, including data, SMSes and Telkom-to-Telkom voice call minutes.

“Essentially, customers will be rewarded with free all-network data, on-net minutes and SMSes as specified in the product offer, every time they recharge with R5 or more,” explains Andrew Dawson, executive of mobile products and services, Telkom.

“The introduction of the Thola More tariff plan is in line with our data-led consumer strategy, which is a response to the ever-changing data needs of our customers who challenge us to continuously improve our products’ value propositions to meet those needs.

“The replaced offering was outdated in the current market conditions and we have observed that more and more, data is becoming a priority in the lives of our customers in addition to minutes; what better way for them to sample our data offering for a holistic experience with our brand.”

Bridging the digital divide

Meanwhile, Cell C says tough economic times bring many challenges to communities and the mobile operator believes that everyone deserves to be able to change their world through affordable Internet access.

According to Cell C, affordable data bridges the digital divide and enables access to all players in society.

Cell C recently introduced its new prepaid LTE connectivity offer, the Home Connecta Flexi. It says this prepaid WiFi product gives customers fast, instant and reliable connectivity, without the commitment of a contract.

Home Connecta Flexi also delivers an alternative to home fibre connectivity by using LTE, putting instant, accessible data in the hands of communities forced to adapt to working, studying and staying entertained from home, but without access to fibre coverage, says the opereator.

It adds that the introduction of the prepaid LTE HOME Connecta is aligned to Cell C’s new operating model which aims to deliver a broad range of competitively priced, digital lifestyle offers to customers.

“We are driven to deliver a range of connectivity propositions to suit every kind of customer and pocket. The Home Connecta Flexi does not require specialist installation, customers simply activate, enjoy and share WiFi connectivity with loved ones in the same home. With offers as low as R59 for 10GB of data, the Home Connecta Flexi bundles will soon become a staple in South African homes,” says Cell C.

Simo Mkhize, Cell C’s chief commercial officer, says: “With these competitive offers, we want to solve a real need that we have seen to help bridge the digital divide in our communities and empower customers with affordability, quality and flexibility.

“Everyone should benefit from a connected digital lifestyle, with our new Home Connecta Flexi products, we are making this possible. Now more than ever, we’re committed to uniting the digital divide,” Mkhize concludes.