South Africans have flocked to BlackBerry devices in recent years because of the cheap and unlimited on-device browsing, chat and e-mail offered through the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS). Now MTN is promising to bring similarly priced offerings to other smartphone devices.
On Thursday, the company unveiled its new “smartphone Internet services”, which offer users access to a range of online services for prices ranging from R29/month to R49/month, aimed at the cost-conscious end of the market. Unlike BIS, however, the new products don’t offer uncapped Internet access, and consumers are likely to question their value compared to the unlimited BIS plans.
The new products are also more complex and difficult to understand than the BlackBerry service.
MTN SA chief marketing officer Serame Taukobong says the new products are designed for specific smartphones, including social networking and Internet browsing. “This means customers get BlackBerry BIS benefits with any smartphone.”
The products include Nokia Smartphone Pro (R49/month; 50c out-of-fair-use rate), which offers 75MB of “fair-use” data to access Nokia’s Ovi services (including messaging, chat, navigation and applications) and “any other Internet usage”. Another option is the MTN Smartphone Pro service (R49; 50c), which also offers 75MB for accessing e-mail, instant messaging, navigation and other online services.
A third option is the MTN Social Networking product (R29; 65c), again providing 75MB of “fair-use” data and access to the mobile versions of Facebook and MXit on any smartphone. Other social networks are charged for separately.
The fourth and final product is the MTN Opera Mini Internet service (R35; 50c), which provides 75MB of fair-use data on any smartphone to access the Internet using an MTN-branded Opera Mini Web browser.
The products are available as part of post-paid deals and also via self-service channels. Customers can have combinations of smartphone services, but not multiples of the same product.
MTN says the fair-use limit is the monthly allowance for customers using the services. Once they’ve reached this limit, they will be charged “out-of-fair-use rates”.
“The reason we refer to ‘fair-use allowances’ and not ‘Internet bundles’ is that smartphone services work differently to normal bundles,” an MTN spokesman explains in response to a query from TechCentral. “With smartphone services, MTN is not selling a bundle but rather access to specific Internet services for a month at a much lower data rate, so there is no data carry-over that applies to these services as is the case with Internet bundles.” — Staff reporter, TechCentral
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