Yesterday I went on a mission. A mission to find out how the heck South African mobile operators charge us for our cell phones.
This is what I found:
Each of our network operators structure their offerings in a different way. This makes it all but impossible to compare apples with apples. So how do we know which is the best package for us when the time comes to sign up for a contract. Well…It means that when you decide to get a cell phone, you have to go talk to each of the operators to find out what they offer. Then you have to compare what each of them says to what you need. Even then, you HAVE to know what you need. Nadine needs a phone, so I went into Greenacres and walked the complex flat, visiting every mobile operator. I asked them to explain to me how they distribute the money I give them into voice, data and SMS’s. Here’s what I was told:
This is in no way a comprehensive list of offers by South African mobile operators. This is actually a very small sample in no particular order. The point of this exercise is just to show HOW the billing works. I have selected basic contracts that come in around R200. Vodacom’s SmartTalk120 being the most obvious exception to that sample. But then it IS Vodacom. They seem to be trying to make their offerings as complicated as physically possible. But then if you rifle through all the bullshit, they end up being less expensive than most, while still giving decent service, support and stability. MTN is the other giant. They have redesigned their packages in such a way that you now just pay one amount. You can the use that one amount in any which way you choose. It’s easy. You pay R200, if you need to make a call, it comes from that R200, if you need to send an SMS, it comes off that R200 and yes you guessed it…your Facebook time comes from the same source. Sounds perfect, right? You pay for access to their network, and you use as you wish. But the trade off is that it turns out quite pricey when you compare it to the competition. The lesser networks (oooh, look at me…calling them lesser!! Hey, it is what it is…) have some offerings too. Virgin has a similar system to MTN, and they give you 1000 free SMS’s every month, but their data is a flat rate and you can’t bolt on any bundles to make it cheaper. Also, it’s limited to EDGE at the moment. They don’t seem to have any 3G yet. CellC has a few nice offerings, including bolt on 3G data, but their service is still pretty crap, and support is terrible. Red Bull Mobile does piggy back off them though, and they have some cool deals.
At the end of the day you’ll have to talk to the operators yourself. Just remember to find out what YOU need before you head out. Use my data as a guide to improve your understanding of how the mobile operators work, then apply it to your own needs. Bigger contacts will just be bigger, but how they distribute your money stays the same.
Good luck and happy hunting 🙂