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Managing your cellphone bill

‘The MVNOs are a force to be reckoned with’ – Cherise Stein – Tariffic.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Even though cellphones and smartphones have become ever-present in our daily lives, many people can still be surprised when they open up their mobile phone bills. Data costs plus unexpected roaming charges and who knows what else can lead to some sizeable variations on a month-to-month basis. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So today we are talking about managing your cellphone bill, picking the right plan for yourself, and all of those things.

We are chatting to Cherise Stein who is with Tariffic. Cherise, thanks so much for your time today. We were chatting just before a you came on and you said there are 10 000 plans and options.

CHERISE STEIN:  There are 10 000-plus package and bundle combinations available on the South African market. So how is any consumer meant to go about picking the right package and bundle for their usage? It’s next to impossible – let alone for one individual, think about a business that has 20 lines, 100 lines. We have a client on our books that’s got 15 000 lines. How are you meant to choose the right package and bundle based on usage for our employees? It’s very difficult. So South Africa, you should contact Tariffic because we make it simple. We’ve got an online tool for both businesses and consumers.

For consumers we give it to you for free. You just need to visit www.tariffic.com –that’s T-A-R-I-F-F-I-C. You upload your billing, you pick your network, you choose your phone and we will tell you what’s right for you based on your own unique behavioural profile.

SIKI MGABADELI:  So what are the things in one’s behaviour that one should be considering?

CHERISE STEIN:  Today it’s all about data, right? Data, data, data. Smartphones today chew up a lot of data. LTE and the speed at which we process data is a lot quicker, so you really need to be watching your data bill. The iPhone 7 has just been released, which means people are going out to get this new phone, and they are going to be downloading apps. They take it for granted that an app might be a 50MB download. You might not be in a WiFi area, so for me you’ve got to be very careful when it comes to data.

SIKI MGABADELI:  So if you are going to download something that’s quite data-heavy, maybe wait until you are in a WiFi area.

CHERISE STEIN:  What the market sometimes doesn’t realise is that in-bundle rates versus out-of-bundle rates—

SIKI MGABADELI:  What does that mean?

CHERISE STEIN:  You have an in-bundle data rate. If you’ve taken out a package, let’s say a Vodacom package, for example, a Red advantage, there are 700 minutes, there’s 1.2GB of data and there’s unlimited SMS. That 1.2GB of data is your in-bundle data. You are paying a R999 subscription for your collective in-bundle amount, units. Now that rate is far cheaper than going out of bundle, on out-of-bundle-rates. The minute you are at 1.3GB, let’s say, your rate is going to change. Out of bundle at times is R1 or R2 [per megabyte]. In-bundle could be as low as 5c.

So we advise you to add, let’s say, a 1GB data bundle, on Vodacom as an example, for R149 versus paying R1 000 for the same 1GB out of bundle. It’s really quite crazy, if you think about it – R149 for 1GB, versus R1 000. It’s scary.

And there are practical things or tips that the market should know and consumers, businesses should know and they don’t. The service providers don’t always communicate what they should to South Africans on how to save money.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Contract versus Pay as You Go? Is there a type of person who should be on the one versus the other?

CHERISE STEIN:  I think it comes down to your personal preference. Both have pros and cons. With prepaid you probably have more control because you are buying a rand value. Once it’s used up, it’s used up. You are not going to go out of bundle, you are not necessarily going to have bill shock at month-end, but you need to then remember to go and top up. So let’s say you are driving somewhere and suddenly you run out of airtime: you can’t use your application to buy it on your banking app or you have to drive to a petrol station, possibly, to buy more airtime. So it’s the convenience factor being on contract. But again, it’s about usage.

So come to Tariffic, let us understand what your usage profile is, let us recommend the right package and bundles for you across all of the networks, because we are independent. So we will tell you what’s right for you on Vodacom, on MTN, on Cell C and Telkom. It’s not just for consumers. It’s for businesses too.

SIKI MGABADELI:  And how different are the different service providers in terms of cost, because it’s cost and it’s convenience. You see the complaints on social media – “I’m going to change, I’m going to port to another network because these people are useless” or whatever, or “They are costing me too much”.

CHERISE STEIN:  I’m going to start with talking about the three S’s before I answer your question. The three S’s. Over the past five years, because we’ve been around for five years, the market has told us about these S’s, and it’s in this order:

The first S is Signal. I need to be able to make a phone call. That’s the primary S that the market is very concerned about.

The second is Service. If I am going to email you, I actually want you to respond. If I’m going to call you I don’t want to wait for 25 minutes on the phone and then I speak to a call-centre agent and they transfer me.

And then the third S is: How do I Save on my cellphone?

We tried our best to help South Africa understand those three. When it comes to savings and recommending the right packages, we are the leaders, we are those experts. When it comes to who is cheaper, it differs for everybody, based on those three S’s, based on your usage.

If we just look at the trend at the moment, Telkom are very competitive. They are incredibly competitive with their rates, especially if you are a high data user. Then their FreeMe packages are really, really, incredible.

Second to that, Cell C are spending a lot of time focusing on acquisitions, and again they are very competitive, especially with the new iPhone 7 deals. The Pinnacle packages are very strong, especially on the iPhone 7 32 gig.

SIKI MGABADELI:  And they are still buying you out of your contract.

CHERISE STEIN:  They are not buying you out, but what they are doing is they are actually giving you and incentive. They are paying you up to R10 000 to take out a contract with them. So if you walk into a Cell C store you are going to get the phone that you want, you are going to get a package that potentially is right for you. Use Tariffic’s website. I say again, use our website, don’t just go and say “I want the iPhone 7” and then suddenly you arrive at month end and you’ve got bill shock because you didn’t realise you needed more data or less data or more minutes. So use our website. It’s for business and for consumers. It’s free for consumers.

SIKI MGABADELI:  We’ve got some questions on email. I’m going to read those to you.

One email from Refilwe who says: “FNB is now offering a deal if you port with them. Are they worth considering?”

CHERISE STEIN:  FNB – or actually I should say MVNOs, mobile virtual network operators – have really arrived in the market in a major way over the past few months. I’d actually have to say yes regarding FNB. They are incorporating eBucks into this offer and if you use that to your advantage, it’s a very competitive deal. And they are now also I think including phones into the mix. So to answer your question, yes, I would say FNB’s offer is pretty good. You should first just understand your usage.

I’m going to come back to usage. It’s very important to know how you use your phone. We are working on ways to incorporate all these MVNOs into our offering. Right now on our website you are just seeing Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom. But the MVNOs are a force to be reckoned with.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Will they change the game?

CHERISE STEIN:  Definitely. The first MVNO was Virgin Mobile, and they were an early adopter. The market I don’t think was ready for what they were offering. But where we are today in South Africa I really think the market is asking for change. You can already see it with #DataMustFall – things need to change. So I do think these MVNOs are going to be a force to be reckoned with, or at least I hope so because it’s competition.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Here’s a general one. I think we’ve touched on it, but it’s worthwhile just reiterating. It’s from Anonymous, who says: “Is it a good idea to get all your product offering from one company, or is it better to shop around?”

CHERISE STEIN:  It’s always good to shop around. It’s important to understand what’s out there. It’s going to come down to your own personal choice. I’ll bring up the three S’s again. What you feel is right for you, may be based on those S’s – Signal, Service and Savings. So see who checks those boxes and what’s most important to you, I would say. So for me, shop around, visit our website, take a look. We give you the choice, so you can see what’s happening on Telkom based on your usage, on MTN, on Cell C and on Vodacom.

SIKI MGABADELI:  Thanks for your time today. That is Cherise Stein, who is head of sales and the operations teams at Tariffic.

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