I grew up in South Africa and I had my first cellphone at the age of thirteen. It was a handed down Philips Diga cellphone from my mother. Although it was expensive to have a cellphone then, I was happy to finally be connected. You were charged to keep your cellphone connected and prepaid vouchers didn’t last much longer.
The cellphone was network locked to Vodacom, so by default I had to adopt the network. They had better coverage then and they have always had the money to go big in advertising. I used Vodacom throughout high school, tertiary and most of my adult life. I was raped right through and there was no service provider with big enough balls to challenge Vodacom up until CellC went all the way out with their per second billing for voice calls. Around the same time, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) pushed for mobile operators to allow customers to port their telephone numbers to a cellular network of their choice (Vodacom, Cell C, Virgin Mobile, MTN and Telkom).
I didn’t hesitate to switch to CellC. A few years later, CellC, under the leadership of then Alan Knott Craig, cut their call-tariffs again allowing customers to pay 99c/minute, with per-second billing, at any time of the day in any of the new bundles. That was a revolution. For once, it felt so good to not be raped in the ass.
8ta (Heita daar)…
A couple of months later, along came Telkom Mobile (then called 8ta). They didn’t offer the South Africans much in terms of service – their customer service left much to desire. For years, they assigned my friend’s ID number and name to my profile, but with my banking details. I was unable to get any sort of support from them as the details reflecting were not my personal details and they failed for years to fix the issue, up until 2017. 8ta made up for the fuck ups in the mobile internet connectivity space – they offered mouth-watering deals that no other mobile provider could match. In 2011 already, they were offering 10GB of data R199 per month over a 24 months contract. That was an incredible deal that I signed up and used from 2011 up until 2017 when I finally got a fiber connection at home.
Vodacom is a leading mobile network provider in South Africa. It is also an ‘arrogantly expensive’ services provider that’s full of excuses. It is unbothered about bridging the digital divide. They always have stories to tell when asked about their intentions. It understands very well that fiber will take time to reach the masses and that mobile connectivity is what’s connecting the majority of South Africans to the internet and they’re not coming to the party. They seem not so concerned about rolling out LTE, which could be a lifesaver in terms of connecting South African to the Internet.
Their LTE deals are uncompetitive and expensive. There is poor LTE coverage and they only seem to be concerned with pushing small 3G packages, which is where they’re making a killing.
My argument and anger come from the angle that you can’t be a leading mobile network service provider and still offer your customers 50MB data bundles in the year 2020. At that scale and ability, it’s totally unacceptable. In a country where users are dependent on mobile networks, you can’t be clowning around like they are doing. They recently announced their “new data bundles” (claim a 30% cut) which are still so pissing off you’d throw up just looking at them.
The world is recently going through one of the worst pandemics in my lifetime. Internet connectivity in South Africa is a major issue. Only a few have a reliable broadband connection at home. This the time where Vodacom, with its scale and expertise, needs to step in and offer South African citizens real solutions instead of lousy 50MB data bundles like we’re still in the year 2002.
South Africa is in a recession and buying inflated prices for connectivity is ver
4G is still key to the future of (South) Africa and that’s something the Big Red mobile network provider needs to start taking seriously:
Unlocking the Spectrum
In all honestly, that’s not our (as consumers) problem. That’s you (Vodacom) and ICASA’s problem. We don’t even want to hear it.
I am tired
I am tired of big corporates clowning around at the expense of the nation and that is the reason I refuse to give Vodacom my head earned money. Making excuses to sound smart is all good but when a brand as big as Vodacom does not consistently live up to its promises, its attractiveness suffers as a result. In the long run, brand damage leads to loss of brand loyalty and brand trust.
LTE is the future and good deals need to come out of South Africa’s leading mobile network provider. I think it’s time Vodacom stops sucking money out of consumers’ pockets and actually offer South Africans something tangible.
We need to be served and connected to the Internet at prices that make mindful sense.