The new mobile network is launching prepaid cellular services that will be available from Monday. Post-paid (contract) packages will be available in November, while corporate services will launch within six months.
Managing executive of the new Telkom Mobile division Amith Maharaj said that 8ta is the consumer brand for Telkom Mobile, while corporate customers for mobile will be addressed under the Telkom Business brand.
8ta is launching with aggressive prepaid pricing Maharaj says is designed to encourage more usage of mobile voice and data services.
“South Africans talk two to three times less on their mobile phones than other emerging markets. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is the start of a new era in mobile phone communication in South Africa. Consumers will at last have a real choice,” he said.
8ta offers flat prepaid rates that do not differentiate between peak and off-peak periods.
“There is a single, per minute price for calls that stays the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have designed 8ta to be simple to understand and remove the clutter,” explained Maharaj.
Calls from 8ta to landlines in South Africa will be charged at 65c per minute while calls to other cellular networks will be R1.50 per minute.
International calls to over 100 countries will cost R2.50 per minute. Data connections are billed at R1 per megabyte, but 8ta will also have data bundles available with data prices from 25c per megabyte.
The network will allow speeds up to 7.2Mbps for downloads on HSPA 3G technology.
8ta will also offer free airtime for every call received on the network at a 1-to-3 ratio. For example, if a subscriber spends 30 seconds speaking on the phone, 8ta will credit their account with 10 free seconds that can be used for calls any time of the day, to any local network.
8ta will also give subscribers 50 free SMS messages to use on days where they send more than five paid-for messages. The free messages will expire at midnight on the day they were earned.
”Subscribers will be able to see how many free seconds they have earned immediately after a call,” said Maharaj.
'Leapfrogging over rivals'
He explained that Telkom’s new mobile network already has 800 live base stations nationally and makes use of a roaming agreement with MTN Group [JSE:MTN] to provide coverage in areas where Telkom’s network has not been rolled out yet. A further 3 200 base stations will be constructed over time.
”The new network has been designed using next-generation technologies. Our base stations are software upgradeable to LTE (Long Term Evolution, the latest standard in mobile network technology) with the Huawei infrastructure we are using,” he said.
Network backhaul is being provided by fibre-optic “metro Ethernet” rings Telkom has rolled out and is still deploying in other areas.
MD of Telkom South Africa Nombulelo (Pinky) Moholi said that Telkom’s new mobile network uses IP technologies throughout its infrastructure, and benefits from being able to leapfrog its competitors.
She explained that the run-up to the launch used an advertising campaign centred on the word “heita” - a South African slang word meaning “hello” to familiarise consumers with the word before launching the brand as 8ta.
"At launch we are going prepaid for voice and data. Post-paid (contract) services will be available from November. We are also already working with existing corporate customers on business solutions for their needs and those will be launched within the next six months,” she said.
Maharaj explained that there will be four contract packages available in November and Telkom Mobile will launch international roaming at the same time. Pricing for contract packages is not available yet, but Maharaj said that “similar savings can be expected”.
He continued: “We are working with a single service aggregator for roaming internationally. Prepaid subscribers will be able to send and receive SMS messages, while roaming while contract customers will be able to access other services.”
"What people want'
Telkom will have a range of mobile phone handsets available at launch.
“We have plans to bring Android and BlackBerry to the market by the end of the year, and are actively working on the plan for an iPhone introduction with our channel partners. We are talking to all handset manufacturers and will have most handsets available,” said Maharaj.
“We will be at thousands of points of sale including our flagship stores, TDS stores, informal and formal retailers. At launch we will be available at Edgars, Jet, CNA, Altech and Smartcall. Other large retailers, such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay, will be brought on stream soon,” he added.
Acting group CEO of Telkom, Jeffrey Hedberg, said that Telkom Mobile benefited from the group’s existing presence in the South African market.
“We are able to mobilise the reliability of fixed-line and the agility of mobile to provide products that South African people really want,” he stated.