Yesterday we found that Vodacom intended to charge its users to roll over mobile data, when Icasa’s new data regulations come into effect on Friday. But a lot can happen in 24 hours. Today Vodacom issued an update stating that data-rollover will be free-of-charge, though there are still some less-than-ideals terms and conditions attached.
Vodacom’s statement reads, in part, “In terms of the new Icasa regulations, Vodacom’s contract and hybrid customers who subscribe to data only packages or an integrated package that includes data, will continue to have data rolled over automatically by a period of one month. This remains free of charge to the customer.” It goes on to say that “…[f]rom 1 March, remaining data on bundle purchases by all customers will be rolled over at no additional charge once a customer purchases the same bundle as the original one”.
Ts & Cs apply
That’s the same approach to data rollover that MTN is implementing. Purchase a data bundle (outside of a contract or hybrid contract), get to the end of its valid dates and you can keep your data — provided you buy another of those same bundles to keep it company. There’s still a cost involved in this process, but it comes with added data instead of Vodacom charging you to keep something you’ve already paid for. For contract and hybrid users, not much will change — data rollover will still occur (for one month) and it’ll still be free-of-charge.
It’s unclear whether you have to buy the exact same bundle for the rollover to apply, but as that’s the least charitable reading, we suspect it’s the approach Vodacom’s taken. We’ve asked for clarity. We’ve not gotten any.
Perhaps in a bid to further make it up to upset users, Vodacom also announced that from 1 March it would be dropping out-of-bundle data rates from R0.99/MB (prepaid) or R0.89/MB (contract/hybrid) to a flat rate of R0.49/MB for all users. It’s also implementing Data Refill, an opt-in service that “…will ensure all customers (Prepaid, Hybrid & Postpaid) never go out-of-bundle as it auto-allocates a safety bundle in the event that their data is depleted”. Data Refill has an out-of-bundle data rate of R0.30/MB.
Data Refill is one option that Vodacom intends to give users when it comes to managing out-of-bundle data costs, in addition to users simply purchasing another bundle or opting out of out-of-bundle blocking (though why anyone would do that is beyond us).
Vodacom’s consumer business unit chief office Jorge Mendes says, “In addition to simply implementing the Icasa regulations, we have gone further by slashing out-of-bundle data rates by between 45-70% to ensure increased value to customers. Additionally, roll over of data will be free. Over the past three years, Vodacom has reduced the effective price of data by more than 40% which shows that our pricing transformation journey continues to deliver real value to customers”.
Prices going up from April
The operator also mentioned that there’s an average price increase coming from 1 April this year for contract, hybrid and prepaid users, adding that this year’s increase will be a “below-inflation” increment.
There is one aspect of data rollover that will still carry a fee — Vodacom users will be able to transfer about-to-expire data to others on the Vodacom network for a charge. Costs will be as low as free (when transferring 50MB of data) up to a maximum of R20 (for 1GB of data). That’s still pretty cheeky, and not at all in the spirit of Icasa’s requirements, but then again, it’s also naive of us to expect Vodacom to be anything approaching charitable unless it’s forced to be.