Vodacom has agreed to cut headline data prices and will expand its zero-rating of certain websites in an agreement with the Competition Commission.
The settlement is a moderation by the commission of its previous hard-line approach contained in its final report into the data services market, released in early December.
Vodacom said the agreement will pass R2.7-billion/year back in value to its customers. Group CEO Shameel Joosub said the agreement is a “social contract” to bring down the cost to communicate.
Announcing the agreement, competition commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele said Vodacom has agreed to a “substantial two-year reduction of data bundles across the board” from 1 April.
Specifically, 1GB monthly bundles will decline from their current highest rate of R149 to no more than R99, or a 34% price decrease. It should be noted, of course, that R99 1GB bundles were already available through some Vodacom channels. Customers that buy smaller-sized bundles, which typically are the poorest, will see the greatest benefit of these price decreases, Bonakele said.
Vodacom has also agreed to expand its zero-rated services through a prepaid tariff plan called Connect U. These include free access to education, health and various government websites.
“These institutions will be able to apply to have their portals zero rated through a clear and transparent process,” the commission said.
Vodacom will provide zero-rated access to Wikipedia, too. In addition, Vodacom will allow customers to apply for job opportunities on seven zero-rated jobs portals.
Furthermore, Vodacom will provide a free basic means of communication, providing free access in partnership with Facebook. Facebook Flex is a low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected. The commission appears to have backed down on a requirement to provide free “lifeline” data to all customers.
Customers can also access local and international news, weather on the Facebook Flex platform, free of charge, it said.
Vodacom will extend the current zero-rating to essential state and emergency sites to enable citizens to access emergency service sand government services. The list extends to more than 20 sites and includes services in the departments of health, education and home affairs. This will be phased in over two months from 1 April.
The operator will extend personalised discounts to more suburbs and villages. Discount levels have been withheld for “competition reasons”.
Through the Connect U offering, it will providers two free SMSes daily to all active prepaid customers. – © 2020 NewsCentral Media