Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia is in early talks with SA mobile operators about offering fixed-cost data plans on most of its handsets in similar vein to Research in Motion’s popular BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS), TechCentral has established.
For now, only BlackBerry devices are available with fixed-cost plans. It’s not yet clear if the mobile operators will accept Nokia’s proposals, but if they do, Research in Motion, which has won over millions of consumers thanks to its low-cost BIS service, could have a real challenge on its hands.
Nokia SA country manager Gerard Brandjes says it doesn’t make sense that only BlackBerry is able to offer fixed-cost plans. “Fixed-cost models are very relevant for consumers at the moment, especially if you look at the BlackBerry model that has proved very successful,” he says.
“There’s effectively only one device offering that model in the market,” Brandjes adds. “It’s in our interest to investigate and deliver an opposing offer.”
Out-of-bundle data costs in SA remain expensive, he says, and Nokia is looking at ways to offer consumers the services they want without incurring high charges.
Nokia has similar propositions to BIS, which it offers in other markets. In Indonesia and Singapore, for example, Nokia devices are offered with unlimited messaging and Web browsing.
“We’re talking to operators about doing similar things in SA,” says Brandjes. “In an ideal world, we would have it in place already but it takes time to finalise the details.”
He says that not only does BIS mean BlackBerry enjoys a competitive advantage, particularly in emerging markets, but Nokia isn’t simply looking to offer a copycat service but wants to provide “various differentiated products to offer consumers greater choice”.
Vodacom chief corporate affairs officer Portia Maurice says the company is “not opposed to fixed-cost data packages” where it can “define the user experience and effectively price the service with a fair-usage policy”.
“Our focus is to ensure that all our customers have the best service possible and that will be the main influencer in any commercial decisions we take in this regard,” she says.
MTN data portfolio manager Surajh Surjoo says Nokia has approached the operator with a proposal but no decision has been made yet on whether to launch such a service.
“We believe that with fixed-cost data plans subscribers will avoid bill shock at the end of the month for their online activities. 8ta is indeed open for discussions with other manufacturers.”
However, Maharaj cautions that 8ta first needs to understand the services that will be provided, the volumes of data that will be consumed and the subscription values and mechanisms to ensure that abuse is minimised before it will sign any deal. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral