Best cellular contract in South Africa

Tarifica, a company based in the United States which tracks telecoms prices, has released its August index for the best cellphone contract deals in South Africa.

Scores in the index are calculated using an algorithm that rates the consumer-friendliness of contract plans relative to one another.

The top contract receives a score of 100, and then the rest are scored relative to it.

Summarised in the tables below are the top contracts from each mobile operator in South Africa for August 2014.

Both SIM-only and plans which include a phone are shown:

Overall best contract without phone for each operator
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Vodacom Smart S (SIM Card) – Promotion 100
2nd Telkom Mobile Completely Unlimited (Sim Only) 95
3rd Cell C SmartChat 8GB (12 months) – SIM Only 63
4th MTN MTN Sky (Without Device) – Promotion 55
5th Virgin Mobile BYO Topup 99 (12 months) 28
Overall best contract with a phone for each operator
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Telkom Mobile Completely Unlimited (Samsung Galaxy S5) 100
2nd MTN MTN Sky (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 66
3rd Cell C SmartChat Topup 3GB (Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini) 64
4th Vodacom Red VIP (Samsung Galaxy S5) 53
5th Virgin Mobile Smartphone Contract 399 (LG G2) 38

To determine these scores, Tarifica said it takes the following factors into account:

  • All the costs (amortised over 2 years), including activation fees and other once-off costs
  • Included value (i.e. data, voice, SMS)
  • Level of service, taking into account network speed and coverage
  • Included value-added services
  • All other features included with the contract

Some features of the contract, such as the included data, are weighted more than others.

As a rule of thumb, Tarifica said that something easily substituted by so-called “over-the-top” services are weighted significantly less than other features.

For example, SMS is easily replaced by instant messaging services like WhatsApp, so it would not count as much towards the score as a contract’s included data.

In addition to the overall rankings above, Tarifica also provides a breakdown of how South Africa’s mobile operators compare in different price categories.

For the sake of readability, only contracts with phones are shown below:

Contracts with phones
Monthly fee of R100.00 or less
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Virgin Mobile Smartphone Contract 89 (LG L40) 21
2nd MTN My MTN Choice 25 (Samsung Galaxy Pocket Neo) – Promotion 11
3rd Vodacom uChoose Flexi 50 (Samsung Galaxy Pocket Plus) 4
N/A Cell C Plans were scored with higher end devices if available N/A
N/A Telkom Mobile Plans were scored with higher end devices if available N/A
Monthly fee of R101.00 to R300.00
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Telkom Mobile SmartSaver 50 (Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini) 90
2nd Cell C SmartChat Topup 3GB (Samsung Galaxy SIII Mini) 64
3rd Virgin Mobile Smartphone Contract 299 (LG G2) 19
4th MTN My MTN Choice 50 (Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini) – Promotion 12
5th Vodacom uChoose Flexi 150 (Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini) 4
Monthly fee of R301.00 to R500.00
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Telkom Mobile SmartPlan 100 (Samsung Galaxy S5) 58
2nd Virgin Mobile Smartphone Contract 399 (LG G2) 38
3rd Cell C SmartChat 2GB (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 28
4th Vodacom Smart S (with Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 18
5th MTN My MTN Choice 100 (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 14
Monthly fee of R501.00 to R1000.00
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Telkom Mobile SmartPlan 100 (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 58
2nd Cell C SmartChat 3GB (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 38
3rd Vodacom Red Advantage (Samsung Galaxy S5) 31
4th Virgin Mobile Smartphone Contract 529 (Samsung Galaxy Note 3) 18
5th MTN My MTN Choice 200 (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 12
Monthly fee of R1001.00 and over
Category Plan Name Tarifica Score
1st Telkom Mobile Completely Unlimited (Samsung Galaxy S5) 100
2nd MTN MTN Sky (Samsung Galaxy S5) – Promotion 66
3rd Vodacom Red VIP (with Samsung Galaxy S5) 53
4th Cell C Infinity Select (Samsung Galaxy S5) 42
N/A Virgin Mobile No postpaid plans offered in this category N/A

Changes

To provide context for the new scores, Tarifica provided some notes on the changes between July and August 2014.

According to Tarifica, not too many new contracts were introduced in August, which meant the scores did not change drastically.

“Also, please remember that all of the scores are scaled to the top score in the market, so a small addition or removal from either of the plans that scored ‘100’ will have a cascading effect and inversely impact all of the other plans in the market,” Tarifica said.

Tarifica went on to provide notes on the changes introduced by each operator to their contracts during August.

Vodacom

The only real shift in the Vodacom scores was the promotional offer which included a R10,000 voucher to Top Dog with some of its plans.

“Given the specificity of this service (there is not a high correlation between education/professional development and mobile phone offers), the small proportion of Vodacom users that we project using the voucher, and its limitations, the bonus for plans that included the voucher was very modest,” Tarifica said.

MTN

Tarifica highlighted a number of changes to MTN’s product line-up.

  • The monthly recurring charges were reduced for the “with device” version of MTN’s Sky plan from R1879 to R1799, bringing its score from 63 to 66.
  • The My MTN Choice 50, 100, 200, and 350 plans received bonuses from their inclusion of 1GB of AlwaysOn Wi-Fi data.
  • The My MTN Choice 100, 200, and 350 received a further bonus (although much smaller) from their inclusion of a free movie rental through DStv BoxOffice.
  • The My MTN 50 received an additional bonus (again very small) from its free access to the Kleek music app.

Cell C

Tarifica took Cell C’s increase of its SIM & Connection fee into account.

  • Cell C’s increase of its activation fee from R114 to R195 negatively impacted all of the plans that included this upfront charge. The effects of this are not that significant when spread over the 2 years of the contract, but it did reduce many of Cell C’s scores slightly.
  • Counter-balancing this decrease was the fact that Cell C began issuing retail vouchers to takealot.com for new and renewing contract customers. While these credits were not included at their full cash value, the additional value from their inclusion tended to generally mitigate (or in some cases cancel out) the raise in activation fee.

Telkom Mobile

  • Telkom Mobile’s plans held virtually constant this month and changes in their score are the result of scaling to the other plans in the market.
  • Last month Tarifica did not list a qualifying plan for Telkom Mobile in the “without device and under R100” category. Tarifica said that this was because Telkom’s SmartPlan 50 and SmartPlan 100 include the “5 for 50” SMS deal. To reflect this feature Tarifica scored them as if the user regularly took advantage of the promotion (driving up both the SMS totals and the costs). This month Tarifica scored these plans two ways: first, as in July where the user regularly uses the “5 for 50” deal and second, just with the plan’s base costs and inclusions.

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Best cellular contract in South Africa