Mobile operator MTN SA will introduce what it describes as an “uncapped” 3G broadband product from 1 June. The service will be subject to a fair usage agreement, the company has said, and will only be available on a 24-month contract.
The uncapped contract is available for R749/month. However, strict fair-usage rules apply to the service. Once subscribers have used 3GB of data, the service will be restricted to a download speed of 128kbit/s. Before the threshold is reached, downloads are available at full speed, or up to a theoretical 14,4Mbit/s in 3G coverage areas.
MTN has also announced an “uncapped” product for R1 999/month, which includes 10GB of data at full speed, which will then be throttled down to 128kbit/s once that threshold has been reached.
In a recent interview with TechCentral, Vodacom Group CEO Pieter Uys suggested that providing uncapped broadband was not feasible for the operator. He said Vodacom had no plans to follow fixed-line broadband providers by offering uncapped products.
Uys said Vodacom would only be able to consider this if it was given more radio frequency spectrum by industry regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA.
MTN’s surprise announcement on Tuesday follows its recent decision to cut 3G data prices. It cut out-of-bundle data rates by as much as 84% and introduced an unlimited per-day bundle that could prove popular among foreign tourists visiting the country.
It introduced a bundle, at R50/day, that gives mobile users unlimited access to MTN’s data network. That product is also subject to a fair-use policy — once a user consumes more than 150MB, the service is throttled to 128kbit/s.
At the same time, MTN launched a 90-minute data bundle at R25. The speed is limited to 128kbit/s and is valid for 30 days, with an additional 30-day carryover for unused data.
In a surprise move, MTN has also announced plans on Tuesday to roll out 3G services at 900MHz, the first operator in SA to do so. It is already running a trial, it says. The move follows Cell C’s recent announcement that it would build an evolved high-speed packet access, or 3G HSPA+, network at 900MHz.
The lower frequency makes it easier to provide broadband services affordably in rural areas and makes 3G coverage better in urban areas.
Until now, SA’s two 3G operators, Vodacom and MTN, have only offered wireless broadband at 2,1GHz. The higher frequency does not penetrate buildings as easily as 900MHz signals.
MTN says SA will be the second country in Africa to provide 3G at 900MHz, after Ghana. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral