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  Don't know where you live but it is terrible in CT...  

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How do new Vodacom contracts stack up to MTN, Cell C, Telkom?

Better bundled ‘value’, but packages still lag, often by a lot.

Vodacom’s revamped Smart+ and Red+ integrated packages have seen increases in data, voice and SMS allocations across the board. And, in the case of its Smart packages (ranging from the R199 (200MB) to R699 (1GB) level), this additional ‘value’ has come with monthly subscription price increases of at least 30%. But how do these stack up to offers from competitors?

Key to this analysis are two vectors: price per month excluding a handset (and the below comparisons try to cluster these within a narrow band in each segment) and data allocation (after all, these integrated plans are targeted squarely at smartphone users).

Entry-level

On entry-level packages (Smart XS+ with a paltry 200MB per month bundled is excluded), Vodacom now at least compares more favourably with rivals and offers better value than Cell C’s Pinnacle 250 (double the data with almost the same amount of minutes and SMSes). If one excludes Telkom’s FreeMe contracts, which typically make the competition look laughable, MTN shines in this segment. Its My MTNChoice+ S package offers four times the amount of data as Vodacom (and eight times that of Cell C), and even compares reasonably favourably with Telkom. It must be noted that, with the exception of the two top-end plans, Telkom’s FreeMe contracts do not come with bundled voice minutes. If you add the price of 200 minutes (or 100 in the case of MTN) of calling (at 69c per minute) to the FreeMe 2GB subscription price, it still compares favourably with both Vodacom and MTN’s plans.

 

Vodacom

MTN

Cell C

Telkom

Package

Smart S+

My MTNChoice+ S

Pinnacle 250

FreeMe 2GB

FreeMe 5GB

Price

R269

R299

R299

R149

R299

Data

500MB

2GB

250MB

2GB

5GB

Minutes

200

100

250

0

0

SMS

200

100

250

Unlimited1

Unlimited1

OOB voice

R1.75

R1.50

R1.50

69c

69c

OOB SMS

35c

50c

50c

30c

30c

OOB data

R1

99c

99c

29c

29c

1 Allocation of 50 SMSes per day (billed at 30c each from 51st)

Mid-level

This is a useful segment to compare as it covers the average usage per smart device on the Vodacom network, currently at 667MB per month (as at December 2016). For R200 more (than the S+ plan) per month, Vodacom offers double the allocation of voice minutes and SMSes, and an additional 250MB of data. MTN’s MyMTNChoice+ S plan has such a generous allocation of data that it is included in this tier as well (there is a big jump to its next price plan at R699 per month). Cell C’s Pinnacle 400 package, with only 400MB of bundled data, looks downright strange when compared to others in this category, especially its own Pinnacle 600 plan (more than double the data at R100 per month extra).

 

Vodacom

MTN

Cell C

Telkom

Package

Smart M+

My MTNChoice+ S

Pinnacle 400

Pinnacle 600

FreeMe 5GB

FreeMe 10GB

Price

R469

R299

R399

R499

R299

R399

Data

750MB

2GB

400MB

1GB

5GB

10GB

Minutes

400

100

400

600

0

0

SMS

400

100

400

600

Unlimited1

Unlimited1

1 Allocation of 50 SMSes per day (billed at 30c each from 51st)

‘Realistic’ level

I’ve termed this the ‘realistic’ level as I would argue strongly that the bare minimum of bundled data anyone with a smartphone should consider is 1GB. Again, Vodacom looks far better than it used to (it used to include 500MB of the Smart L plan, at R529pm), but the comparison is still unfavourable. At the same price points, Cell C’s Pinnacle 1 000 offers double the data and more bundled voice and SMS, while MTN shines again, with five times the data and (while lower) a still realistic voice and SMS allocation.

 

Vodacom

MTN

Cell C

Telkom

Package

Smart L+

My MTNChoice+ M

Pinnacle 1000

FreeMe 10GB

FreeMe 20GB

Price

R699

R699

R699

R399

R599

Data

1GB

5GB

2GB

10GB

20GB

Minutes

600

350

1000

0

1500

SMS

600

350

1000

Unlimited1

Unlimited1

1 Allocation of 50 SMSes per day (billed at 30c each from 51st)

Heavy usage

This comparison is probably where many readers of this site would start (with plans centred on at least 2GB of data (in most cases, higher) and around the R1 000 a month mark). Again, the call that needs to be made here is how many voice minutes you use in a month. If you are not a heavy voice user, Vodacom’s Red More Data is by far the most attractive price plan (but, it is worth bearing in mind that a 10GB data bundle will cost R599 on Vodacom, so you’re paying R150 for 150 minutes and a handful of SMSes).

 

Vodacom

MTN

Cell C

Telkom

Package

Red More Data

Red Select+

My MTNChoice+ L

Pinnacle Unlimited

FreeMe 20GB

FreeMe Unlimited

Price

R749

R999

R999

R999

R599

R999

Data

10GB

2GB

7GB

3GB + 7GB1

2GB

Unlimited5

Minutes

150

800

500

Unlimited2

1500

Unlimited6

SMS

25

Limitless

500

Unlimited3

Unlimited4

Unlimited4

1 Current extra promotion allocation of 7GB

2 Fair use of 5 000 minutes per month

3 Fair use of 4 000 minutes per month

4 Allocation of 50 SMSes per day (billed at 30c each from 51st)

5 Fair use of 25GB per month, speed throttled to 128kbps thereafter

6 Fair use of 3 000 minutes off-net per month

Both Vodacom and MTN have a number of price plans in the no-man’s land between R999 per month and the top tier (R2 099/R2 499), but these seem to target very specific heavy voice users and aren’t too competitive on a bundled data basis. These are excluded from this analysis.

Top tier (‘unlimited’)

At the very high end (contracts with unlimited calls), Vodacom’s Red VIP+ package is finally relevant in 2017. It is an absolute travesty that, until August last year, this premium plan only had 5GB of bundled data! However, this remains the only plan in this bracket that actually includes limitless calls and SMSes, i.e. without a stated fair usage limit (the operator reserves its right in the case of “extreme usage”). Cell C maxes out at a 10GB allocation on its R999 Pinnacle Unlimited plan (with caps on both voice and SMSes). On Telkom’s FreeMe Unlimited option, internet speed is throttled (but not cut) when customers hit 25GB of usage.

 

Vodacom

MTN

Cell C

Telkom

Package

Red VIP+

Sky Max

Pinnacle Unlimited

FreeMe Unlimited

Price

R2099

R1999

R999

R999

Data

20GB

25GB

3GB + 7GB2

Unlimited5

Minutes

Limitless

Unlimited1

Unlimited3

Unlimited6

SMS

Limitless

Unlimited

Unlimited4

Unlimited7

1 Fair use of 7 500 minutes off-net per month

2 Current extra promotion allocation of 7GB

3 Fair use of 5 000 minutes per month

4 Fair use of 4 000 minutes per month

5 Fair use of 25GB per month, speed throttled to 128kbps thereafter

6 Fair use of 3 000 minutes off-net per month

7 Allocation of 50 SMSes per day (billed at 30c each from 51st)

On the whole, Vodacom’s postpaid price plans still don’t compare well with those from rivals, especially MTN and Telkom. The operator will likely argue that many of the FreeMe comparisons are not constructive as all but the top two Telkom plans don’t offer any bundled voice minutes. It might also argue that it’s not all about price. Across its Red plans, Vodacom is hoping to further differentiate on other things, like a priority help desk and like-for-like loan devices (and free Super Rugby jerseys).

It is strange that the market-leading operator in South Africa and the one which pioneered integrated price plans back in 2013 now lags rivals so obviously.

Somehow, though, it’s managed to convince its 5.2 million postpaid customers that its plans represent good (adequate?) value. Of course, contract customers are – by definition – sticky: they don’t typically switch from network to network. The other important thing Vodacom has in its favour is the size and quality of its network. It is the largest in the country, and the ‘best’ on many measures. Some customers are justifiably willing to pay a premium for this.

My advice? Start with the amount of data you currently use and accept that you will use more over time. There are a few more things to consider, but you should’ve read this already: Choosing the right mobile package!

Hilton Tarrant works at immedia. He can still be contacted at hilton@moneyweb.co.za.

He owns shares in Vodacom, first purchased in June 2013.

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The reason I left Vodacom, and would still do today if I were with them, is their rediculois idea of data bundle sizes. As a company selling smartphones reliant on data, knowing that what they offer is bull but will fill their pockets, they are reminding me of a certain president with their arrogance. For the record, I beleive a small data bundle is 1GB, medium is 2GB, large is 5GB and extra-large 10GB. And that was since 2016, in 2018 they all need to move up a tier. Voice, as even Vodacom stated themselves, is dropping below data – so they really should sell data bundles with voice attached, not the other way round. But that would make it too obvious that they are screwing their customer base.

I’ve moved to Afrihost because the undertand this. It’s not as clean an experience to be with a virtual operator, but I have zero reception issues and pay fairly for my usage.

I’m waiting for my contract to expire with Vodacom and move across to telkom. I live in Pretoria. I must add that with Vodacom I had no issues with dropped calls and people reaching me via cell (with Cell C people could not reach me. Also people call; but my cell did not ring).

What is Telkom’s cell phone service like with regards to dropped calls and availability.

Try Afrihost. They run off the MTN backbone. No reception issues, no dropped calls (so far), fast data.

Thanks. I’ve looked at Afrihost and going to go with this. Month to month contact which is fantastic.

Don’t know where you live but it is terrible in CT

The author stated in a previous post: a) Vodacom network/coverage is Generally the best b) he feels that prepaid is still the best. Do the rest of you agree? I also find Vodacom generally gives me good signal any place but I thought contract is miles better than prepaid?? I must renew/cancel my Red Advantage soon, but this topic is more confusing to me than deciding what unit trust what country. Please help

limitless/unlimited minutes – per month I assume. How absurd – each and every month has a finite number of minutes. BS baffles brains I guess, shows how brain dead most people are.

Me? Pay as you go, voice mainly – problem sorted. I have a 50Mb/s 400GB/month FTTH. No drops, no slow downs, no contention, no 5GB limit (how absurd), no fall back to edge, no BS.

I went through this process just this weekend. Vodacom surprised me by coming in much CHEAPER than Cell C! The information in the tables above is misleading because Cell C added a charge for the handset, whereas Vodacom added nothing-to-very-little for the handset. Cell C were also terribly inflexible… each contract has 4/5 phones attached to it so you can’t for instance match a high value contract with an entry level phone – talk about DOF! Still trying to figure out why Cell C is seen as a valuable asset/brand in this country (e.g. blue label telecoms deal)… been making losses for years and I don’t see things changing any time soon.

What we really need is a very simple pricing structure. Flat rates per minute / MB with peak and off peak rates. End of story. No need to buy data bundles or other stupid consumer abuse products. There can be a simple unlimited option for high volume users.

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