Data is the new voice for mobile operators: expert

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Gigabytes are becoming more important than voice minutes when it comes to mobile networks structuring their phone contracts, says an expert.

On Thursday, Telkom unveiled its new mobile contracts.

But instead of structuring these contracts according to the number of voice minutes, the telecoms company decided to organise the packages primarily by data use.

Subsequently, Telkom is offering six data packages ranging in price from R99 for 1GB to R999 for unlimited data while all packages have free texts and free calls to Telkom fixed and mobile lines.

“We have listened to our customers and we know that they are data hungry – so that is what we are giving them: six simple plans in six data sizes,” said Telkom Consumer CEO, Attila Vitai.

Organising contracts by data differs from rivals such as MTN and Vodacom who on their websites prioritise contracts by minutes and text messages, followed by data.

“Telkom is actually the second player to the market to introduce something like this. We saw it initially with Afrihost Mobile with their voice packages,” Antony Seeff, CEO of local phone bill monitoring company Tariffic, told Fin24.

“And I think that was very well received by the more tech-savvy bunch out there.

“But I think over time as people start using more and more data and become more focused on how much data they are using, how much data they’re getting, and lesser on the calls – I think all the operators are going to have to follow suit,” Seeff told Fin24.

Demand for data is also exploding in South Africa, highlighting the growing need by network operators to shift their focus to internet offerings.

Vodacom this week in its latest quarterly update revealed that its data revenue in South Africa increased 18% to R4.7bn for the period as average monthly data usage by customers grew 19.6% to 632MB.

Meanwhile, MTN in a quarterly update in April this year said that across its African and Middle East operations its voice and data traffic respectively each increased by 12.1% and 123.3% year on year.

Amid this growing demand for data, Seeff said all networks in South Africa will have to increasingly structure their contracts by data use rather than voice use.

“I think they have to. I don’t think they have an option because that’s the way that consumer behaviour is going,” Seeff told Fin24.

“The consumer’s behaviour is already moving in that direction,” Seeff said.

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