Heck, there are a lot of cellphone contracts in South Africa

When it comes to picking a smartphone contract, I go for the network with the cheapest option, get the iPhone I want, then put in a Vodacom prepaid SIM.

The SIM and value that comes with the contract is then put into a cheap Android phone, which I use to make my compulsory monthly calls to my mom and brother.

This method is not cost-effective or viable for many South Africans, though, and a cellphone contract and its included value is what they use to keep their mobile device online.

Working for MyBroadband, we get a good overview of the cellphone contract market in South Africa, and I can say with confidence that there are so many options out there I sometimes have no clue what is going on.

Even for the tech-savvy, being aware of all your options across all the networks is a mammoth task.

More options than a McDonald’s menu

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom all have their own ranges of contracts, which means multiple options per network.

Vodacom, for example, offers 33 contract options for the iPhone 6S 16GB on its website.

MTN has nine sets of main contract options, each with their own subsets of packages.

Cell C offers multiple contracts, topup services, and more.

Telkom’s range is similarly large – with smartphone contracts, data contracts, its multi-tier FreeMe range, and standalone offerings all sold under one roof.

While choice is good, this makes finding a suitable smartphone contract a fully-fledged research project.

Add the MVNOs to the mix, and the options expand further.

Over 10,000 combinations

Tariffic CEO Antony Seeff – whose company works at optimising cellphone bills – said there are currently over 10,000 combinations of packages and bundles available in South Africa across the four major networks.

This includes add-on and bolt-on bundles, he said.

Seeff said this makes it difficult for customers to find the optimal package and compare options from different networks against each other.

“The structure of the various packages also makes it nearly impossible to compare all packages on a like-for-like basis,” he said.

Seeff said operators should look at simplifying their contract packages – which Cell C has done in recent times – but an abundance of choice does benefit consumers.

He said Tariffic’s free online tool for personal contracts was one way consumers could assess which contract was best for them.

Keeping it simple

Having never run a mobile network, simplifying contract ranges could have undesirable effects on revenue and customer growth.

As a contract customer, I can advocate for a simplified range of products, though.

A good first step will be consistency in out-of-bundle charges across all packages on a network and a single set of bonus/free voice minutes and data on all contract options.

This means you can focus on the included value when choosing a contract and not the additional benefits a package contains.

From here, a simplification of the naming conventions would be great. Calling something “Smart” or “Epic” does not tell me what it is. Calling it “Data” or “Voice” would be more helpful.

Once this is done, reducing the amount of options per contract range would make it easier for consumers to decide which deals suit them best.

This is an opinion piece.

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Heck, there are a lot of cellphone contracts in South Africa