On 25 July, Telkom will make its new packages, called FreeMe, available to the market. They’re innovative and they’re making waves. But are these packages right for you?
FreeMe is a set of new data-centric packages offered by Telkom. Customers choose what data bundles they would like to receive and then simply pay for off-network calls to Vodacom, MTN or Cell C customers. And that’s it — everything else is included, with free on-network calls, 50 free SMSes a day and free use of Telkom’s Wi-Fi hotspots. Oh, and you’ll also get free calls and messaging on WhatsApp, BBM and Viber (limited to 2GB of usage a month). And if you go for their top packages, which offer 20GB of data or an unlimited amount of data, you’ll also receive free calls to other networks (limited to 1 500 or 3 000 minutes respectively).
Out-of-bundle rates are also pretty good, at 29c/MB for data, 69c/minute for voice and 30c/SMS.
Prepaid customers shouldn’t despair: these deals are available to them, too and it’s offered on a month-to-month basis for post-paid customers who are looking for Sim-only deals.
So, is this revolutionary?
It’s certainly great to see cellphone contracts finally moving in the right direction. While the other operators are complaining about over-the-top providers like WhatsApp and Skype, Telkom is going in the opposite direction and in fact endorsing them, offering packages where the network won’t even make a cent off these services.
Data is also the man of the hour and Telkom knows it. Consumers worldwide are making fewer voice calls and using exponentially more data every year. It’s great to see a mobile operator who gets this and is making data the focal point of a new set of tariffs, while still catering for certain voice usage.
The packages rates, dictated by the size of the data bundle you want, are very competitive. It is, however, interesting to note that Telkom has, for the most part, been offering these data bundle rates for a while already. They are now just tacking on free WhatsApp and on-net calls as well. But when you bring it all together, it becomes quite an aggressive offering, perhaps only competing with the likes of Afrihost Mobile’s voice packages.
Out-of-bundle rates are a continual thorn in everyone’s side, and at Tariffic we see bills soaring into the tens of thousands of rand due to exorbitant out-of-bundle rates charged by some of the other networks. It’s refreshing to see Telkom looking out for the consumer, and offering a cool 29c out-of-bundle for data. This is not nearly as cheap as adding a bundle, but it’s much cheaper than other operators’ comparable rates (with the exception of Cell C’s high-end Pinnacle packages). The out-of-bundle call rate on FreeMe is also incredibly competitive, coming close to Cell C’s 66c/minute rate.
Telkom are batting for the consumer by offering month-to-month Sim-only packages for these contracts. There is no reason why you would have to sign up for a 24-month contract if you’re not getting a phone with your contract, and Telkom gets it (Cell C also offer month-to-month, Sim-only deals).
Overall, this is an aggressive offering by a hungry player who is nipping at the heels of the big dogs. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to this. MTN is set to launch a new, flexible package in the near future, and Vodacom doesn’t seem to have any interest in competing when it comes to the prices of its offerings.
But what about Cell C? I suppose the ball’s now in its court, unless it wants to risk handing over their “consumer champion” crown to a new operator?
- Antony Seeff is CEO Tariffic, a company that helps businesses and consumers manage their mobile spend by analysing the vast array of option available from the operators