By Loni Prinsloo, Bloomberg/Fin24
MTN will replace its cross-town rival Vodacom in a network-sharing deal with Cell C, South Africa’s third-largest mobile phone operator.
Cell C, which has roamed on Johannesburg-based Vodacom’s network since 2001, will switch to MTN from next month, Cell C chief executive officer Jose dos Santos said in an email.
The bulk of services will be transferred within two months and will allow the operator to offer 3G and 4G connectivity in areas where Cell C has decided not to build networks, he said.
For MTN, the deal will help fund “our ongoing network expansion,” MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa said in a statement.
Cell C will roam on MTN’s network in smaller cities and rural areas, where the company has additional capacity. Vodacom couldn’t immediately comment.
South Africa is MTN’s largest market after Nigeria and the company has invested almost R30bn during the past three years to expand its network and catch up with Vodacom’s coverage in the country.
Vodacom’s new trading update has revealed quite a few interesting facts about the network giant. Let’s take a look at some of the things that stood out most.
The latest trading update from Vodacom has revealed that its service revenue in South Africa has grown by 4.9% to just over R14 billion. It seems they are also making quite a bit in terms of every South Africans least favourite word: “data”.
MyBroadband reported on the statement that explained that Vodacom had added huge amounts of new customers last year.
“We continued to see strong customer growth, adding 1.6 million customers in the quarter as we attracted new customers through our bundle and segmentation strategy,” said Vodacom.
While South Africans continue to complain about the ridiculous data costs here at home compared to other developing countries, data revenue grew by 8.7% for Vodacom. That increased brought the total data revenue to R6.0 billion, making up 42.3% of service revenue.
While data traffic growth on Vodacom’s SA network is slightly down from the previous quarter, overall traffic growth kept stable at 43.9%
Vodacom’s steps to reduce free data usage was the main reason for the decline. While we may say we hate bundles, the network says they are becoming ever more popular.
Vodacom was also keen to stress that the overall effective price it charged per megabyte was down just under 25% in the quarter.
The network says the money it makes is focussed on enhancing the quality of coverage across the country.
“During this quarter, our capital expenditure of R2.3 billion was focused on maintaining our best network advantage and enhancing our IT systems and deep learning machine capabilities,” said Vodacom.
Across the Vodacom network, 77.6% is LTE or 4G population coverage. 3G covers 99.4% of the network.
After MyBroadband first reported the R2 billion news, South Africans across social media were furious that the network giant was bringing in such large amounts off of their data.
By Nic Andersen for The South African
Network provider Vodacom has announced that it will “significantly reduce” out-of-bundle prices for all customers from mid-October.
“For pre-paid and customers on top-up packages, the out-of-bundle rate will drop by as much as 50% once the new 99c per megabyte tariff comes into effect on October 15.”The out-of-bundle rate for post-paid customers was reduced from R1 per megabyte to 89c on October 1,” the company said in a statement.
Group CEO of Vodacom Shameel Joosub said the company needs to expand 4G coverage and keep pace with an increase of more than 45% in sustained data traffic demand.
“Both of these come at a cost, and we have invested some R32.7bn over the last four years. However, lack of access to spectrum is hampering our ability to drive down infrastructure costs and in turn, enable us to pass savings to the consumer,” said Joosub.
Vodacom previously told Fin24 that it is committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after regulator Icasa said it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce the country’s high data costs.
Vodacom joins Cell C, which recently responded to Icasa’s regulation of data by dropping out-of-bundle rates and extending bundle expiry.
In August it was announced that Icasa wanted to amend the End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations by introducing “out-of-bundle billing practices” and other “expiry of data practices”.
Previously, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry in an attempt to reduce high data costs.The probe will be conducted over four phases and will be completed in March 2018.
Kyle Venktess for Fin24
Vodacom is reimbursing subscribers who were affected by a billing issue on Monday night, the operator said on Twitter.
Customers took to social media last night, causing Vodacom to trend on Twitter, to complain about disappearing airtime and data.
Those affected by the billing bug complained about missing data and airtime depleting for no apparent reason.
Vodacom has committed to ensure that all affected customers will be refunded in full. On Tuesday morning, the mobile network said it had begun the process.
Vodacom said that all out-of-bundle charges incurred during the incident are being refunded, and that depleted bundles are being reinstated.
The technical glitch that drained data bundles from numerous customers was sparked by a configuration change to the network’s billing system.
Vodacom told Fin24 that the incident had been the first of its kind.
“The issue was caused by a configuration change on our prepaid and top up billing system that was problematic. We were able to isolate the cause and roll back this process during the course of last night (Monday),” Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told Fin24 on Tuesday.
Kennedy said Vodacom had already reimbursed customers affected by the billing issue. All out-of-bundle charges incurred during the incident are being refunded, and depleted bundles are being reinstated.
“We are committed to ensuring that all customers are refunded in full,” Kennedy says.
Any customer who has not been reimbursed for their data loss should contact the call centre on 111, Vodacom said. The network would then conduct a short investigation to verify the amount of lost data, before refunding the user.
By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband; Kyle Venktess for Fin24
Vodacom will actively participate in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (Icasa) consultation process on the draft regulations regarding data expiry periods and out-of-bundle billing.
Vodacom told Fin24 that it was committed to the process of drafting new regulations, after the communications regulator stepped into the going feud between consumers and networks over the high cost of data.
“Vodacom is aware of the draft regulation gazetted by Icasa regarding data expiry periods and out-of-bundle billing,” a company spokesperson told Fin24 this week.
“Vodacom is committed to bringing down data prices and has brought down effective data pricing by 44% over the last three years.
“Through the likes of Just4You, which offers customers hourly, daily, weekly and monthly bundles, Vodacom has made significant inroads in recent years in its pricing transformation journey,” the spokesperson said.
The latest step by Icasa to join the #DataMustFall campaign was aimed at regulating data expiry dates, according to a notice published in the Government Gazette on Monday.
Icasa intends to encourage networks to extend the validity of data bundles.
“With regard to out-of-bundle billing, Vodacom reiterates its position on this matter in that it remains fully committed to addressing these and has already started to implement its plans,” Vodacom told Fin24.
“We remain committed to consulting with the regulator in our shared quest to continuously address customer needs and improve the customer experience,” the company added.
The public has until September 19 to submit comment.
Prior to the recommendation, the regulator announced it would hold an inquiry to try reduce high data costs. This inquiry will be conducted over four phases and completed in March 2018.
These phases include a market study, discussion document, public hearings, and findings document. Members of the public would have 45 days to submit comments following each phase, News24 reported.
By Kyle Venktess for Fin24
Vodacom announced last week that it will increase the subscription fees of selected contract price plans on 1 May 2015.