File picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Johannesburg - Cellphone giant MTN announced on Monday it had dropped its voice call rates to R0.79c a minute across all local networks, adding more competition to an already highly competitive market.

The mobile network launched the promotion on its website, stating: “In the past 20 years, South Africa has ushered in amazing changes.

“And, as one of South Africa’s largest cellular network providers, MTN has been proud to play a part in bringing about these historic changes by connecting people and starting conversations.”

And indeed, the network has created considerable hype with the announcement at a time when voice calls are declining in the country in favour of data bundles and wi-fi services use.

But it’s for a limited time only.

Yesterday, the network said in a statement: “The 79c flat rate is accessible to MTN customers from 11 April 2014 for the next three months, with the intention to make this a permanent rate.”

The announcement became a trending topic on social networking site Twitter, with the hashtag #MTN79, with many noting in their tweets that it was setting a new bar for cheaper call rates from Cell C, which offers 99c a minute.

However, one will have to read the small print carefully as there are different terms and conditions for the three service plans it offers.

For example, the MTN Pay Per Second price plan normally allows for an all-day flat rate of R0.02c a second (R1.20 a minute) billing on all local calls to any local network.

The reduced pricing of R0.79c a minute for that plan is effective from 11.59pm last Thursday until 23.49pm on July 9.

In terms of the MTN PAYG Bundles, the provider offers the R0.79c/minute call rate for voice bundles from February 23 until next Thursday.

The MTN PAYG R7, R12, R17 bundle promotional rate is effective from last Thursday until June 17 when the calls will also be charged at R0.79c/minute.

Vodacom spokesman Richard Boorman said the challenge for all network operators was to get the balance between pricing and investment right so that customers could benefit from lower prices, but did not suffer from a worse network experience as a result.

“The mobile voice market is highly competitive – as an example, Vocadom’s average effective price per minute on prepaid as per our most recent trading statement is 56c.

“This is 25 percent lower than a year ago and 50 percent lower than three years ago,” he said. - The Star