Cell C to zero-rate WhatsApp calls - TechCentral

Cell C to zero-rate WhatsApp calls

Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos

Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos

Thumbing a nose at its competitors in the raging debate over “over the top” (OTT) services, mobile operator Cell C has announced it will provide free WhatsApp calling to some of its customers.

However, the offer is limited in that it will only be available from Sunday, 24 January until the end of the the month and only to contract customers and prepaid users on its “MegaBonus” plan. Eligible customers will not pay for data consumed when making calls over WhatsApp.

“Customers who want to use WhatsApp calling must ensure that their handsets have the correct settings to ensure they are not charged for data,” Cell C said.

It’s not clear if the promotion is meant as a once-off campaign or whether it’s being used to test the waters.

In a statement, Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos said the decision was prompted in part as a “protest at the calls by our competitors to regulate OTT services”.

Cell C appears eager to use the debate over whether OTT providers should be regulated to swing public sentiment in its favour. In the past 18 months, MTN, Vodacom and Telkom have all cautioned about the impact OTT services could have on their businesses.

Unlike its rivals, Cell C has worked closely with some OTT providers to introduce new services in South Africa, including Facebook’s Free Basics, which offers free access to a limited set of websites and services.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on telecommunications & postal services will hold a public meeting on Tuesday next week to discuss the possible regulation of OTT services.

“The mobile industry across the world is changing and at a far faster pace than many would have expected. Cell C understands that alienating OTT players and the unique services they offer will only disempower consumers,” Dos Santos said in the statement.

“By creating partnerships with OTT players, network providers have the ability to find ways for everyone to benefit.

“These services offer some of the most affordable communications in the market today and regulating them will only increase the cost to the consumer. This at a time when the industry is being called on to lower the cost to communicate.”

Dos Santos said that although “regulation has its place, the focus should rather be on ways to reduce input costs of the mobile players, including infrastructure sharing, access to valuable spectrum and the development of a national broadband network for the delivery of next-generation broadband technologies”.  — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media


  1. Andrew Fraser on

    Although this is very limited in scope, this is exactly what MTN and Vodacom risk if they start billing for VOIP and Messaging services at a different rate – Cell C will position itself as the consumer champion.

  2. They are already.
    As far as I know CellC is only charging R5-00 per month for WhatsApp in any case, that’s hardly going to put their customers outa biz.

  3. Vusumuzi Sibiya on

    >>It’s not clear if the promotion is meant as a once-off campaign or whether it’s being used to test the waters.

    Let’s hope the latter is what’s applicable…

    It would certainly have been a very attractive proposition to get new customers for a limited period in the same way that 8ta had the offer of 1minute of free-calling to any SA network for every 3minutes of mobile calls received calls;

    …perhaps a lifetime of free WhatsApp calling to the first 500k new customers to take up a promotional offer of activating a new Cell C SIM or porting their MTN, Vodacom or Telkom numbers – will definitely get the colluding #GreedyCravingCrybabies to catch a wake-up.

  4. William Stucke on

    Way to go, Cell C!

    This whole “OTT” nonsense only works if the MNOS all collude . It just takes one brave / honest / smart competitor to show them up for the greedy corporates that they are.

  5. Ofentse Letsholo on

    I may not be using WhatsApp calls at all but I’m in support of this, I use Facebook Messenger more than any IM for calls so hey.

  6. Jeremy Pontgomery on

    OTT has never been regulated and never should !!! Cell C make themselves sound like true angels, but this is just a disguise ! Trying to mislead us consumers, how “good and lenient” they are … wauw, what a load of horse crud !

  7. Jeremy you sound like you didn’t get it all this am. Tell us what is your opinion on this matter?? Personally I think Cell C is doing the right thing and hope they continue to give the fat cats stick till end of days.

  8. Potential problem & probably why the gov. committee was appointed so quickly, there is a huge amount of gov. pension money invested in Vodacom & MTN! Having said this, well done Cell C: whatever the reasons, we have to fight.

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