Cell C plan for free daily lifeline data

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - Cell C’s prepaid customers can expect some relief from next month after the mobile operator committed to providing free daily lifeline data and zero-rating of essential government and educational services websites on the back of an agreement with the Competition Commission.

Cell C, South Africa’s third-largest mobile operator yesterday announced a plan to roll out a voluntary offer aimed at contributing to the commission’s vision for greater digital participation.

Chief legal officer Zahir Williams said that the agreement was based on the group’s social responsibility to ensure that lower-income consumers had access to essential communication services through the provision of free daily lifeline data and the zero-rating of essential government and educational services. “It is important to keep in mind that the inquiry did not find any evidence that Cell C had contravened the Competition Act, rather that certain industry-wide measures would improve access by lower-income consumers,” Williams said.

Cell C said that it would launch a free lifeline package for customers capped at 250KB per day at a bundle size to be determined by the company, and would enhance its lifeline package to allow for direct messaging from one customer to another via the Cell C App.

The group said it would zero-rate the national coronavirus (Covid-19) website, www.sacoronavirus.co.za, to help communities stay informed about the virus, and other government websites such as health, education, and social services. Cell C said it would also implement effective rate notifications to allow customers to check usage per MB price to enhance price transparency.

The Competition Commission’s Data Services Market Inquiry found that in terms of data prices South Africa performed poorly relative to other countries, with prices generally on the more expensive end. It found there was considerable scope to improve price-based competition in the mobile data services market.

In line with the commission recommendations, South Africa’s biggest networks - MTN and Vodacom - both committed to cutting data prices, including slashing the price of the 1GB bundle for customers from this month. Partially state-owned Telkom also announced last week that it would reduce the price of its IP Connect products, saying that its wholesale division, Openserve, would introduce transparency and remove any perceived competition problems associated with the provision of wholesale broadband connectivity.

Cell C chief executive Douglas Craigie Stevenson said that the company’s voluntary offer was in line with its commitment to digital inclusion and central to the inquiry’s recommendations.

“The commission’s recommendations on data price cuts have resulted in industry prices now falling to levels that Cell C has been offering since 2018 and the company is happy to have concluded an agreement in these circumstances,” Craigie Stevenson said.

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