Standard Bank launches its own ‘integrated’ MVNO – Meet SB Mobile


You can’t be a bank in South Africa these days unless you’re also administering your very own mobile network and now Standard Bank has joined in the cellular party. The bank has launched SB Mobile, its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) backed by Cell C and, by extension, MTN.

So far, so good… so what? How is SB Mobile going to stand out in an increasingly crowded pack? One way is by tying their mobile network to Standard’s banking system, making it “…an extension of our digital offering” according to SB Mobile’s Funeka Montjane. Which also means that you have to have a Standard Bank account in order to play.

Standard Bank has gone a slightly different route to the one trod by established operators and other banks. Users who bank with Standard and have an SB Mobile account will be able to earn free airtime and data by using their credit, debit, or cheque account cards, though all the specifics aren’t wholly clear yet. What we know is that some airtime will be included in the monthly fee and that everyday transactions will be turned into data.

Spending R10 with a Standard Bank card will return 1MB of data to SB Mobile users — so dropping R2,000 on groceries will return 200MB in data. Not the hugest saving but if all your transactions are via Standard Bank cards, it could add up to a neat bit of data by the end of the month. Oh, and SB Mobile’s data doesn’t expire, a move that’s quickly becoming the norm. The accounts are also month-to-month, so you won’t be locked into a contract you don’t really like.

The cost of calling

Standard is offering a sliding scale of costs for voice and data, starting at R0.99/minute for calls and R0.15/MB for data. But how much you pay a month for your SB Mobile account influences how much you’ll pay for your calls and data. Hand Standard Bank R249/month for access to data and you’ll be paying just R0.05/MB for what you use — though it looks like this option also depends on what sort of account you have with the company.

Pony up R149/month for voice access and you’ll wind up paying R0.49/minute on calls — a cost that kicks in once you’ve chewed through your bundled airtime. If you’re concerned about your spending, you’ll also be able to limit how much you can spend on your SB Mobile account each month.

Users will have to pay a set amount each month for access to SB Mobile, and the amount paid determines which tier they end up on. Among other things. Costs start at R39/month, which gives users access to the transaction-to-data reward program mentioned above, as well as a limited amount of either data or airtime. The more you pay, the more you get, but the tiers also depend on what sort of account you have.

A tier in our eye

Youth and inclusive accounts don’t actually have to pay a monthly subscription fee, but those accounts also have limited rewards. Still, they’re the only ones with properly free stuff attached. For everyone else, the sort of Standard Bank account users have influence which tier they’re assigned to and what their rewards are. Those on the Elite tier will get R105 free airtime. Prestige offers users R205 airtime, there’s a Private and Professional tier that nets those users R369 airtime, and there’s a Wealth & Signature tier that gets those folks R469 airtime. This amount is credited monthly and call charges begin once users have burned through the free stuff for the month.

Montjane says, “We are not launching a new mobile network. We are extending our digital offering to our clients. As Standard Bank embarks on an extensive digitisation drive, mobile communication has become a key feature in modern financial services. It’s impossible to separate your phone, from you credit card, insurance or ability to transfer funds across borders.”

Standard Bank will be launching SB Mobile as a SIM-only affair at first, but are looking at providing handsets as well in the first quarter of 2019. More extensive data and fibre offerings are also said to be in the works for a later stage.


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