August 12, 2016

It is three weeks to the day since Telkom launched its innovative new FreeMe cellphone packages to the market, and you’ll never guess who the first service provider to react is…

It’s not price-slashing, consumer-championing Cell C, nor is it we-just-raised-our-contract-prices MTN.

The first to come to the party is never-participate-in-a-price-war Vodacom.

Vodacom has, very quietly, just unveiled a variety of new + (Plus) packages. These packages augment their existing offering and effectively offer more data and less SMSs to Vodacom’s existing Smart, Smart Top Up, and RED packages. They’ll also cost you a bit more as well.

Telkom paved the way with their data-centric FreeMe packages, answering consumers cries for more data and less voice minutes with their contracts. It seems that Vodacom think this is a good idea, and have adjusted their current packages to cater to this high-data world. Vodacom, however, isn’t willing to compromise on the voice component just yet, and are still offering the same voice minutes as they previously had. You’ll also notice that you pay extra for this extra data, and although you’ll get this data at a good price (see below for a full analysis), they still don’t compare to Telkom’s new packages for data-hungry users.

So, is it a deal?

If you ignore the fact that you’ll receive fewer SMSs (which most cellular consumers will be fine with), you will effectively be paying more every month for the additional data that comes with these packages. And the prices you’ll pay for this extra data do in fact work out cheaper compared to the cost of adding a separate data bundle to your existing contract. However, this (the cost saving) only becomes significant with the more expensive RED packages, where you’ll land up only paying R100 more for an extra 1GB, 2GB, or 5GB, depending on whether you’re on a Classic+ (equivalent to Red Advantage), Premium+, or VIP+ package.

It is surprising to see that Vodacom is the first to react to Telkom’s new data-centric FreeMe contracts. Vodacom have a reputation of staying the course when it comes to their offerings and pricing, while rather trying to allure customers based on their network coverage. Vodacom’s new Plus packages prove that they aren’t oblivious to the turning of the tide when it comes to how cellular consumers are using their phones, and it seems these new packages are an attempt for them to try to dip their toe into these new waters.

According to Tariffic’s cellphone industry analysis, Vodacom’s new Plus Packages are not competitive, from a price perspective, with some of the other offerings available on the market. However, these contracts will still be compelling to current or potential Vodacom customers who use a fair amount of cellular data every month.

Are these Plus packages for me?

You’re forgiven if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this new information and comparing the many options at your disposal. So how will you know if these new Vodacom packages are for you? You don’t have to guess, because there are online tools like Tariffic (available for free at http://www.tariffic.com) to help you find your perfect package on any network, including the latest + Packages from Vodacom.

If you’re keen to compare contracts (across all networks, including the latest Vodacom + deals):

1) Head over to https://www.tariffic.com/me

2) Click on “Get started now”.

3) All 4 networks are selected by default. If you don’t want to see recommendations for other networks, then simply click on their logos to deselect them. Click “Next Step”.

4) Select which handsets you would like to see deals for. The most popular handsets, as well as SIM-only deals are already selected, but you can add or remove from this list based on your desires. Click “Next Step” when you’re done.

5) If you have your cellphone bills available, and would like to find the perfect contracts based on your exact usage, then click Option 2 and upload your cellphone bills (invoices and itemised bills) on the next screen. If you don’t have the bills, you can click Option 1 to estimate your usage.

6) You will then be shown a list of the most optimal packages for you, based on the networks you’re interested in, the phones you’ve selected, and your exact usage requirements.

And that’s it! You’ll be able to see not only what the most suitable packages are for you, but also what bundles to add, and how much you’ll be expected to spend every month.

How long will these packages be available for?

Vodacom has noted (tucked away in their T’s & C’s on their website) that these new Smart + and RED + price plans are running on a promotion, valid from 1 August 2016 until 31 January 2017. But these things have a habit of being extended - permanently.

PS: The “+” moniker may seem vaguely familiar – that’s because MTN has been offering My MTNChoice + packages already for the past few months.

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