One of the biggest threats to the mobile operators’ voice revenues is voice over IP (VoIP) services. MTN and Vodacom prepared for this threat by lodging much higher rates for VoIP traffic than for standard data traffic years ago (see mobile VoIP article from 2006).
The threat of free mobile VoIP calls has been around for years, but recent changes in the mobile landscape made local telecoms CEOs take note.
MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa said that if WhatsApp’s planned voice services are offered free of charge it can be a game changer.
Vodacom is less concerned, saying that as long as people are using their smartphones, it’s ultimately a positive for the company.
MTN ready to charge higher VoIP traffic fees
MTN is warning customers that “in terms of the current regulatory regime in South Africa, please note that these tariffs and the MTN GPRS, GPRS+, EDGE or 3G technologies may not be used to transfer or generate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic”.
“Should it be found that VoIP traffic was carried over the MTN network using these tariffs or technologies, MTN reserves the right to cancel the agreement that you have with MTN, with immediate effect,” MTN states.
“You will also be charged retrospectively at R21.93 per Megabyte (VAT excluded) [R25 per MB VAT included] for any VoIP traffic transferred by such means.”
MTN was asked for feedback about their higher VoIP rates, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.
No plans from Vodacom to charge higher VoIP rates
Vodacom is more subtle, saying that “Vodacom reserves the right to charge a differentiated data usage rate for any voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic on any of its data bearers as amended from time to time”.
Vodacom lodged a tariff of R10 per MB for VoIP traffic with the regulator several years ago.
The good news is that the company has no plans to charge higher VoIP rates. “We have no current plans to levy an additional charge for VoIP,” said Vodacom spokesperson Richard Boorman.