Vodacom and MTN slashed prepaid mobile data prices – 40% savings on 1GB

It has been just over a year since Vodacom and MTN reached an agreement with the Competition Commission to significantly reduce the price of mobile data in South Africa.

Vodacom agreed to drop its monthly data prices across the board by up to 40% over a two-year period, while MTN agreed to a one-time set of price reductions.

These agreements also included zero-rated services and free messaging — two free SMS messages for active Vodacom subscribers, and free data for the Ayoba messaging app for MTN subscribers.

The agreements with MTN and Vodacom were negotiated after the Competition Commission published its final report on its Data Service Market Inquiry in December 2019.

“The preliminary evidence suggests that there is scope for price reductions in the region of 30% to 50%,” the report stated.

The Commission added that Vodacom and MTN must stop using “partitioning strategies that contribute to anti-poor pricing and inferior service outcomes”.

Vodacom recently announced is second prepaid data price cut after reaching an agreement with the Competition Commission in 2020.

This raises the questions — how much have prepaid mobile data prices decreased in South Africa, and has Vodacom held up its end of the deal with the Competition Commission?

Prepaid mobile data prices before and after Competition Commission intervention

The table below summarises the reduction in Vodacom prepaid mobile data prices since reaching its agreement with the Competition Commission.

It shows that Vodacom has reduced its prepaid bundle prices by between 12.5% and 50%, and has honoured the deal it made in 2020.

Vodacom prepaid data price cuts since 2019 (30-day bundles)
Bundle size Current price 2019 price Change
15MB R10 Removed
30MB R12 Removed
50MB R12 R25 for 55MB -47.2%
200MB R29 R29 for 100MB -50.0%
350MB R49 R63 for 250MB -44.4%
500MB R69 R99 -30.3%
1GB R85 R149 -43.0%
2GB R159 R249 -36.1%
3GB R229 R299 -23.4%
5GB R349 R399 -12.5%
10GB R469 R599 -21.7%
20GB R699 R999 -30.0%

The table below summarises the reduction in MTN prepaid mobile data prices since reaching its agreement with the Competition Commission.

MTN reduced its headline prepaid prices by between 6% and 33.6%. If MTN’s personalised prepaid offers were to be factored in, these price cuts would be even more substantial — between 30.1% and 75%.

MTN prepaid data price cuts since 2019
Bundle size Current price 2019 price Change
20MB R10 Removed
100MB R20 R29 -31.0%
150MB R29 R39 -25.6%
200MB R39 New
350MB R60 300MB for R60 -14.3%
500MB R75 600MB for R99 -9.1%
750MB R89 R120 -25.8%
1GB R99 R149 -33.6%
1.5GB R149 R189 -21.2%
2GB R189 New
3GB R229 New
6GB R399 New
10GB R469 R499 -6.0%
20GB R699 R899 -22.2%
30GB R999 R1,249 -20.0%
50GB R1,499 R1,999 -25.0%
100GB R2,499 R3,499 -28.6%

Spectrum still needed

Part of the deal between South Africa’s two cellular powerhouses and the Competition Commission is an understanding that highly sought-after radio frequency spectrum will be released soon.

South African mobile network operators have long called for the release of this precious spectrum, saying that it will allow them to substantially increase the capacity of their networks and improve coverage.

Without the spectrum, networks are forced to spend far more money to add capacity to their networks by building ever more towers.

With the release of additional spectrum, networks will be able to increase the capacity in areas where they already have coverage without building additional towers. This will decrease the cost and time required to add capacity to their networks.

While MTN and Vodacom have dropped their prices in-line with their agreements with the Competition Tribunal, the spectrum was once again not released by the expected deadline.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has made some spectrum available on a temporary basis as part of the National State of Disaster due to COVID-19, but its spectrum auction has been delayed due to legal action brought by Telkom, Etv, and MTN.

Among the concerns raised by Telkom and Etv is that the South African government has not yet finished migrating old analogue TV broadcasts out of some of the spectral bands being auctioned off. This digital TV migration is currently set to be finalised by January 2022, but it is unclear if this deadline will be met.

ICASA has said that it will launch an urgent appeal against the North Gauteng High Court’s decision to grant Telkom and Etv an interdict against the high demand spectrum auction.

Now read: South African mobile network battle shows a clear winner – and a clear loser

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Vodacom and MTN slashed prepaid mobile data prices – 40% savings on 1GB