ICASA’s new rules came into effect on 1 March 2019. But don’t get excited.

ICASA, last April, wanted to ban expiring data and automatic out-of-bundle (OOB) charges, and make data transfer mandatory. Cell-C and MTN took them to court.

According to the Consumer Protection Act, prepaid vouchers (e.g. a Woolies gift card) must stay valid for three years. The cellular providers argue that their service has been ‘delivered’ once the voucher is redeemed (i.e. you enter the voucher pin). Except, if I buy a bag of potatoes with my Woolworths gift voucher, they don’t come and take back the potatoes that are left over at the end of the month.

Woolworths also doesn’t charge for a potato “or part thereof”. If you are on a price plan that is billed per minute (bpm), change immediately. Most of the prepaid plans seem to be billed per minute, since the providers state very specifically when a price plan is billed per second (bps). For example, on Vodacom For Less (which used to be the default price plan for new sim cards) a quick call to say “Hi, I’m at the gate,” will cost you the whole minute’s price of R2.64 instead of 22c for five seconds.

A lot has changed since I last investigated prepaid shenanigans two years ago, but a depressing amount has stayed exactly the same.

For example, our very own MTN charges its Nigerian customers 3 naira (12c) per MB out-of-bundle, and 1000 naira (R40) per GB (according to mtnonline.com at the exchange rate on 2019-03-13).

Locally, Cell-C can offer an out-of-bundle rate of 16c/MB on one of its prepaid plans (66c), but instead, the default plan for a new sim card charges R1.75/MB (Ultrabonus).

There are only two price points for a gigabyte of data valid for 30 days. Everyone charges the same for an SMS. Everyone sets their default price plan on, arguably, their most expensive package. Everyone tries to obscure this with ‘value added’ ‘freebies’ such as millions of MBs between midnight and 5am or ‘double airtime’ valid for 24 hours.

But hey, South Africa has three untouchable cartels; the cellular providers, the big four banks, and the taxi industry. Nothing to see here, folks. Certainly not collusion. Move right along.

So, since the regulators have been asleep for fifteen years, the cellular providers are now acting like 7-year-olds caught hitting the television with broomsticks: “But you never said we’re not allowed to…!”

Back to ICASA’s new diluted regulations. Somehow, the rules started like this:

And ended up implemented like this (as on 2019-03-13):

  Telkom Cell-C MTN Vodacom
Default OOB behaviour[1] Redirect to OOB webpage OOB enabled – Unlimited OOB disabled OOB enabled – Unlimited
Data validity 2 months for bundles 1GB-10GB, and 6 months + for other bundles 30 days 30 days 30 days
Data rolls over Does it need to? IF you buy another bundle or a time extension (1, 3, or 30 days) before it expires IF you buy another bundle before it expires IF you buy another bundle before it expires AND it must be the same value as the original bundle
Data can be transferred To any Telkom subscriber[2]

BUT Max 1GB per day and 10GB per month

To any Cell-C subscriber[2]

BUT Max 1GB per month and 3 transfers per day

Kind of.

You can ‘Data Share’ a bundle with up to 2/20 MTN subscribers[3]

BUT you must buy a bundle specifically to share AND you cannot specify how much each sharer may use.

To up to 5 pre-registered Vodacom subscribers (only prepaid-to-prepaid or contract-to-contract)

BUT Not for 1-hour or 1-day bundles

AND Only within 3 days of expiry for 7 and 14-day bundles or within 7 days of expiry for 30-day bundles

IF You pay a fee for larger transfers

Out of bundle rate 29c / MB From 16c to R1.75 / MB 29c / MB if you don’t buy bundles

49c / MB if you do buy bundles

49c / MB
Default new sim price plan[1]

 

Telkom More

R1.90/min bpm

50c per SMS

Ultrabonus

R1.75/min bpm

50c per SMS

MTN Connect

R2.00/min bps

50c per SMS

Power Bonus[4]

R1.53/min bpm

52c per SMS

Change to Sim Sonke

75c/min bps

30c per SMS

29c/MB OOB

66c

66c/min bps

16c per SMS

16c/MB OOB

Pay per Second

99c/min bps

50c per SMS

29c or 49c /MB OOB

Vodacom Prepaid 79c

79c/min bps

50c per SMS

49c / MB OOB

How to change your plan *180#

4 – Tariff change

2 – Change current tariff

1 – Sim Sonke

1 – Confirm

*147#

2 – Manage

1 – Change tariff

3 – 66c

1 – Proceed

 

*141*0#

5 – Migration

2 – Migrate Price Plan

4 or 5 – MTN Pay per Second

*135#

11 – Next

4 – Services

5 – Free change

1

3 – Next

1 – Prepaid 79c

1

– Confirm

How to opt out of OOB Default opted out

 

*180#

# for more options

9 – Out-of-bundle redirect options

1 – Change OOB options:

OOB for rest of month or

OOB forever

 

*147#

2 – Manage my account

3 – Spend control

1 – Change data

3 – No out-of-bundle

1 – Confirm

Default opted out

 

*135*6#

1 – Data

Message will confirm whether opted in or not, and give the option to change.

 

*135#

11 – Next

4 – Services

10 – Next

4 – Out-of-Bundle limit lock

1 – Data OOB limit lock

2 – Opt in to OOB limit lock

– Choose limit

 

[1]         This is according to brand new sim cards bought on 6 and 7 March 2019, not according to what the providers have stated in the media or on their websites.

[2]         It’s not clear whether prepaid to contract (or vice versa) data transfers are possible.

[3]         According to Tech Central, “Data Share” can be enabled for up to 20 other MTN numbers. According to an MTN call centre agent, “Data Share” can be enabled for 2 other numbers.

[4]         Vodacom still has different sim cards for different plans, so Power Bonus may not be the only default plan.

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