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Telcos entice with smartphone payment terms

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As calls to fast-track programmes to bridge the digital gap in SA intensify, telcos are stepping up with services that accelerate smartphone access within the prepaid market.

This, as government has been urging the ICT and telecoms sectors to play a meaningful role in assisting its efforts to accelerate digital inclusion.

The sectors have been implored to prioritise digital inclusion over profits, especially in the wake of COVID-19, which has accelerated the digital economy.

Communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni pleaded with the sectors last month at Telkom’s South African Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference, calling for an expedited approach on projects that provide universal connectivity in SA.

Now, telcos are seemingly responding to government calls with services targeting the prepaid market with flexible smartphone deals.

This week, Vodacom became the latest telco to introduce such a service when it unveiled the Easy2Own proposition, targeting the prepaid market with entry-level smartphones.

At the launch, the mobile operator cautioned that smartphone penetration and ownership remains a barrier, preventing many from participating in the digital economy.

Through Easy2Own, Vodacom customers can purchase a smartphone by paying a 10% deposit of the device’s selling price and then pay it off in monthly payments over the next 11 months.

Vodacom is offering devices from the Samsung portfolio, with an entry price point of R129 up-front and R99 per month. A larger selection of brands will be introduced over time, says the operator.

On activation of the prepaid handset deals, Vodacom will allocate a 1GB bundle valid for seven days.

“At Vodacom, we believe that access to mobile devices and connectivity provides endless opportunities for South Africans,” says Jorge Mendes, chief officer of Vodacom Consumer Business.

“The Easy2Own proposition is yet another innovation by Vodacom to help bridge the digital divide. We are confident this effort will accelerate smartphone penetration and help consumers participate in the digital economy.”

“The Easy2Own initiative has been designed with affordability and our customers’ lifestyles in mind. To ensure no one is left behind as we move towards a digital society, Vodacom will continue launching initiatives such as Easy2Own, which drive mobile access in South Africa,” says Davide Tacchino, Vodacom Terminals managing executive.

Digital enablers

Similarly, MTN is testing its own service in limited stores, providing customers with affordable payment options on smartphones.

“The solution is designed to assist customers who cannot afford a smart device; however, they can afford to pay in instalments. The affordable payment option will allow customers to select a device, pay a deposit upfront in the store and then the balance of the amount will be paid in monthly instalments,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA corporate affairs executive.

“The response has been very positive and MTN will be increasing the number of stores offering this facility to around 50 stores by February, with the intention of offering it in all MTN stores in the course of March 2022.

“While MTN has always subsidised key smartphones to make the devices more affordable to our customers, our objective is to place as many smartphones in the hands of South Africans as possible, as these devices have become vital enablers to access the digital economy,” notes O’Sullivan.

In the case of Telkom, the mobile operator says it understands the value of customers having the right devices to enable access.

“We offer smart device financing services through our partner SmartAdvance. This offering has been on pilot for the past few months at select Telkom Direct Stores (TDS); as from 1 December the offering has been expanded to all TDSs and customers will be able to apply directly in store or online. Customers have the option to finance their devices over three, six or 12 months. The device financing option is for the handset only and does not extend to any product/SIM offering at this stage,” says Telkom.

Cell C hadn’t responded to requests for comments by the time of publication.

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