Vodacom expands data access to the poor, slashes prices by 30 per cent

10 Mar 2020, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


South Africa's Competition Commission told Vodacom and MTN to desist from "anti-poor” practices.

Vodacom, South Africa's largest telecoms operator, has reached an agreement with the country's Competition Commission to reduce data prices by over 30 per cent, effective from April 1, 2020. The telecom giant also announced on Tuesday that it will provide free internet access to the poor, as part of its settlement with the regulator.   

At a news conference in Pretoria today, the Competition Commission said the agreement will save consumers R2.7 billion in data costs annually. Effective from next month, a one gigabyte of Vodacom's data bundle will cost R99, compared to the current R149. This translates to a 34 per cent price reduction.

A report released in December by the Commission on data pricing indicted Vodacom and MTN of "price discrimination strategies." The regulator said the operators were charging their subscribers in South Africa more than those in other African markets where they operate. It, therefore, instructed Vodacom and MTN to reduce prices by at least 50 per cent and 30 per cent.

“The commission is delighted to announce that it has reached an historic agreement with Vodacom to reduce the cost of data,” said Tembinkosi Bonakele, Commissioner of the Competition Commission. “Vodacom has agreed to a two-year reduction on monthly bundles, prices will come down by 30%.”

Furthermore, the Commissioner called on MTN and Vodacom to desist from "anti-poor” practices. As part of the settlement with Vodacom, the company's subscribers will have free data connection to browse Wikipedia, certain government e-service portals, and other essential information. Job seekers will also have free access to some approved job portals.

According to a statement by Vodacom, which is a subsidiary of the United Kingdom's telecoms giant Vodafone, its zero-rated offering will also be expanded to all schools, universities and TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges across the country. This will enable students in these institutions to access relevant information free-of-charge via their portals.

Bonakele also announced that talks with other mobile operators to reach a settlement have reached advanced stages.