Vodacom: Unlimited data deal soon
Cape Town - Vodacom has hinted that it will soon make unlimited data packages available for a wider selection of smartphones, similar to what BlackBerry users have.
"We are definitely looking at that [data packages]," Nomsa Thusi, executive head of Vodacom Corporate Communications told News24.
"Unfortunately I can't give too much detail on that because we're still in our planning process at this point, so anything can change, but we're definitely looking at having other devices on a similar plan," she added.
BlackBerry users pay a flat rate and have access to the BlackBerry Internet Service which has seen mass adoption of the devices in developing markets like SA.
Recently, Nashua Mobile released an "Xtreme Data" unlimited package for a flat rate, but this is only available with new Nokia contracts.
Commentators have suggested that mobile operators would not be prepared to deliver such an offering, but Thusi hinted that pricing would be aggressive.
"At this point we can't confirm the exact offering - what it will be because we're still in the planning process - but it will be good because we've had lots of key learning that we derived from the BlackBerry offering," she said.
South African users are price sensitive and more users are upgrading to smartphones, despite the fact that the most popular device in the country is the Samsung E250 feature phone, according to World Wide Worx.
According to statistics from software company Opera, makers of the popular Opera Mini browser that dominates on mobile phones, the web is central to users' experience of their cellphones.
"When we look at what people are doing, by analysing aggregated data from our servers to get top-rankings, we see things like social web; web mail, social messaging services like MXit for example," Christen Krogh, Opera's chief development officer told News24.
Vodacom rejected suggestions that the unlimited data package was not profitable for the operator, despite reports in 2011 that BlackBerry users who exceeded a set data limit would be "throttled".
Vodacom moved to reassure users that a small percentage of BlackBerry users were abusing the unlimited service, but hastened to add that no one was being throttled.
"There is no throttling going on, nobody is having their service slowed down. What we're doing is, we're working with RIM to find that solution," said executive head of media relations at Vodacom, Richard Boorman.
Thusi said that the operator could afford unlimited data packages.
"We're not operating at a loss or it wouldn't make sense for us to launch products where we're operating at a loss, but obviously, it's not as profitable as some of the other packages.
"It's something that customers are very keen on and if you want to keep your customers, you want to offer them products and services that are going to make them want to stay."
In the US and other developing markets, users have been moving away from BlackBerry devices, despite the Canadian firm's efforts to assure customers on the platform's security.
Unlimited data packages in SA could have a similar result and boost cheaper smartphones as customers move toward devices with more capability.
"From that perspective, it kind of makes sense for us to expand these types of services because that's what our customers are really keen on," Thusi said.
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