Vodacom has hinted that it will cut data prices in the next few weeks as competition in SA’s mobile industry hots up.
The telecommunications group’s CEO, Pieter Uys, hinted at looming reductions in mobile broadband prices while launching Vodacom’s new 43Mbit/s network at a function in Pretoria on Saturday.
“The cost of using the Internet will come down,” Uys says, adding that price reductions will form part of the operator’s three-pronged plan to expand and increase network coverage and speeds, improve service and offer better value to consumers.
“The value started last week, and there will be a lot more coming in the next days, weeks and months,” he says, referring to Vodacom’s decision to cut the price of 2GB bundles (including 2GB of additional bandwidth late at night) for R149/month as a promotional exercise.
The 2GB plus 2GB special exactly matches the price charged by Cell C for 2GB of data, escalating the war between the two operators. Vodacom and Cell C have engaged in increasingly rancorous competitive exchanges in recent weeks that culminated in a hearing at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week. Cell C, which lost at the ASA, will switch on the first leg of its 42Mbit/s network in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.
Uys says the special will last for three months only but promised new prices across its portfolio of products soon. “We are working on our other products, so we will get together again to talk about the rest,” he says.
Uys used Saturday’s event to show an internal Vodacom video to journalists that disparages Cell C’s new — and now withdrawn — television advertisement featuring comedian Trevor Noah comparing Vodacom’s network to an old sports car and Cell C’s to a modern Ferrari. Instead of Cell C’s “Whoooosh” pay-off line, the Vodacom video says “Shoooosh” and generally takes the mickey out of Cell C’s campaign. Uys says the video is not meant for broad public consumption and has declined to provide a copy to TechCentral for publication.
Meanwhile, Vodacom has officially launched its new 43,2Mbit/s network, with 1 000 base stations now active. A further 1 000 base stations will be switched over in the next six weeks. Johannesburg, SA’s largest city, will be included in next month’s upgrade. Consumers shouldn’t expect to get 43,2Mbit/s, which is a theoretical speed — in real-world conditions, Vodacom says speeds will average between 6Mbit/s and 9Mbit/s. New broadband dongles are also needed. A USB version costs about R1 300, and is “free” on contracts of 1GB/month or more.
Vodacom has 4 200 active third-generation base stations.
At the same time, Vodacom is extending its own fibre-optic network to connect its base stations. It expects to have about 2 000 base stations hooked up to its own fibre by the end of the first quarter of 2012. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral