File image: IOL
JOHANNESBURG - MTN, Africa's biggest cellphone company, has cut out-of-bundle data prices for the 5million poor customers mainly concentrated in South Africa’s rural areas and townships, amid calls for data to fall.

Yesterday's data cut comes months after the company unveiled a strategy aimed at boosting the business and regaining lost market share.

As of today, MTN South Africa will offer lower-end customers who use less than 5megabytes out-of-bundle data pricing by up to 80percent to 29cents a megabyte.

MTN SA chief executive Godfrey Motsa said the move would help “protect customers”.

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“Poor people, low-income people, rural people to be accidentally billed at R1.50 or R2 just to receive a picture on WhatsApp was really untenable. We cannot be tone deaf, especially if we say we want to be the most loved network. We cannot be the most loved network with those rates,” Motsa said.

Pic: Supplied

Other customers who buy R2 a megabyte will also be invited to opt into a flat rate of 60c a megabyte for out-of-bundle data and the opt-in will be exercised by using the USSD code *130*1#

“We’ve made it ultra-simple for our customers to opt in for this reduced out-of-bundle pricing as it is a once-off opt-in and then you will never be charged more than 60c per megabyte for any out-of-bundle data you may choose to use,” Motsa said.

“This change is simple, easy and transparent, because by opting in we can then be sure that all our customers have consented to the new 60c per out-of-bundle megabyte pricing,” he said.

MTN also announced yesterday that its hugely popular 1GB for R50 promotion would return this month and would be exclusively available off the MyMTN app.

Picture: Yasmine Jacobs.

Motsa, who has been MTN SA chief executive since March, said data prices were likely to be cut even further when the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Siyabonga Cwele, allocated spectrum to companies.

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“The only person we are waiting for is Minister Cwele to basically give us the spectrum,” said Motsa.

In the last four years, MTN SA has lost its resonance with customers, but Motsa said the company had turned the corner through investing R2billion in the network. It was improving service to customers at its walk-in centres and call centres.

“What we are doing today is demonstrating our commitment to customers. There is no one who has R5million on 29c for data bundles,” he said.

Motsa also announced that MTN had hired Ster-Kinekor chief executive Wanda Matandela to be the new head of the operator’s enterprise unit.