TELKOM, A BASTION OF INNOVATION?

February 28, 2017

Telkom continues to shake up the mobile market with the launch of their new FreeMe Family packages

Telkom, the decades-old, telecommunications behemoth has now, believe it or not, become the most innovative mobile network operator in the country.

First, they launched FreeMe last year. These are their new data-centric mobile packages which are the first contracts in the South African market to cater to our new data-first, voice-second world.

And now, they have just launched a new set of FreeMe packages – called FreeMe Family – which allows families to share a massive amount of data and voice minutes in one package. Like the regular FreeMe contracts, FreeMe Family plans come with a whack of included data, free Telkom-to-Telkom calls (which means you can call any other family members on the plan for free), free SMSs, and some off-network minutes (to call other mobile networks).

There are 3 flavours of FreeMe Family contracts available –

All contracts come with three SIM cards for different family members, but more can be ordered if required. The person who manages the family account can allocate a certain amount of data and minutes to each family member. When they run out, more data or minutes can be allocated, or an additional top-up bundle can be purchased if necessary.

In terms of value for money – this can’t be beat. There is no other postpaid solution in the market that can get you as much data and minutes across, say, three devices than these packages.

So, how innovative is this really?

Similar mobile family plans have been available in the US already since mobile contracts were first introduced, and are probably the most-used contracts in the US market. However, it’s taken South African mobile network operators 20-years to catch up. “Why has it taken so long,” you may ask? The answer, it appears, is three-fold – it comes down to the rands and cents, technical capabilities, and market competition.

Mobile operators make a huge chunk of their profits from ensuring that their users are on the wrong packages, and then laughing all the way to the bank while people either under-utilise their contracts (so they, for example, only use 100 minutes out of the 300 minutes that they pay for), or over-utilise their contracts (where they go Out-of-Bundle and are charge exorbitant Out-of-Bundle rates for doing so). Telkom’s new FreeMe Family packages, by their nature, aim to reduce this over-spend / under-utilisation by helping you make sure that everyone is allocated the right amount of minutes and data.

Another potential reason for the delayed introduction of these family plans is that they are reliant on systems to be developed for consumers to allocate minutes and data to each family user and ensure that this is impacted in real-time on the networks. This may sound easy enough, but the network operators have gotten so big, so quickly over the years, and any system development of this nature is sure to be a mammoth challenge. And in their world, the outcome of such a platform may not warrant the development required.

The third reason is that the current competition in the market hasn’t really necessitated such innovation. It seems the operators have been content to introduce new, yet outdated, contracts and to try squeeze out margin wherever they can, rather than think outside the box. It is left to Telkom, the minority player in the South African cellular arena, to start pushing the envelope if they want to really capture market share.

Can I use FreeMe Family packages for my small business?

Telkom has taken a positive step in transforming the landscape of the local mobile industry by offering these FreeMe Family packages to small business as well. Small businesses are now able to use these FreeMe Family packages as a simple way to purchase contracts for all their staff. This comes with many benefits, including:

  • Having one contract, rather than individual contracts for each staff member
  • Being able to allocate minutes and data to employees as required, based on their specific behavior
  • Being able to identify abuse of cellphone contracts and effectively blocking data or voice access immediately

Small businesses have, to a large extent, been left in the dark when it comes to cellphone management. It is for this reason that such innovation is applauded. And Tariffic, a company which helps businesses save on their cellphone contracts, has identified further need to help this market segment. As such, the company has announced that it will be extending its popular online management suite to SMMEs and launching a new offering, aimed exclusively at helping SMMEs manage & minimize their cellular spend – across all mobile operators. And so the SMME revolution is about to begin with small businesses finally getting the right tools to manage their cellular environment.

Telkom now has its second homerun in the market and it’s up to the other mobile operators to respond. Will these new packages create enough noise to wake the sleeping giant who hasn’t produced any exciting contracts in years? The South African mobile industry is constantly changing and one hopes that such large-scale innovation heats up the competition even more.

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