Vodacom has launched its Wi-Fi offerings which are available via WirelessG’s Wi-Fi hotspots. This Wi-Fi service is available to all Vodacom contract, top up and prepaid customers.
Apart from access via WirelessG hotspots, Vodacom customers will also have access to the Wi-Fi service while traveling overseas via 110 000 hotspots at destinations outside of South Africa.
Vodacom subscribers interested in using the Wi-Fi service will have to create an online Wi-Fi account and recharge their account. They can recharge by purchasing a Wi-Fi bundle or by transferring Vodacom credit to their Wi-Fi account using the "Pay as you Surf" option.
Vodacom’s Wi-Fi service has various pricing plans, including “Pay as you Surf”, "Once off Bundles" and "Contract bundles".
“Pay as you Surf” customers will pay R 0.86 per MB for local usage while international usage costs R 1.50 per minute.
Subscribers can also purchase a 100 MB “Once off Bundle” for R 79.00 or a 200MB bundle for R 144.00, but these bundles can not be used overseas. An international “Once off Bundle” of 500 minutes for R 600.00 is however available for travelers.
6 month WiFi contracts are also available at R 229.00 for 600 MB and R 279.00 for 1 000 MB, but like the usage based “Once off Bundles” these contracts can not be used outside South Africa.
More expensive than HSDPA
Vodacom’s Wi-Fi access may be a convenient product for international travelers, but Vodacom and MTN’s HSDPA subscribers are unlikely to find value in this new service.
HSDPA subscribers typically pay between R 0.19 and R 0.28 per MB, significantly lower than Vodacom’s Once off Wi-Fi bundle rates of R 0.79 per MB for a 100 MB package and R 0.72 per MB for a 200 MB package.
Vodacom’s own 500 MB prepaid HSDPA bundle, which is costs R 189.00 and translates into R 0.38 per MB, provides significantly better value than the company’s 200 MB Wi-Fi bundle for R 144.00.
MTN’s 350MB bundle for R169.00 – or R0.48 per MB – also provides far better value for money than Vodacom’s Once Off Wi-Fi packages.
Other Wi-Fi providers
Vodacom’s Wi-Fi services are fairly priced when compared to offerings from some of their competitors.
MWEB charges R 1.00 per minute for its Wi-Fi access, but it should be noted that their subscribers receive 300 minutes of free Wi-Fi access per month. MWEB members can also use the company’s iPass service at hotspots overseas.
Internet Solution’s Wi-Fi products retail for R150 for 4 hours, R90 for 2 hours, R50 for 1 hour and R30 for 30 minutes.
There is no doubt that these Wi-Fi products are a convenient and necessary alternative for travelers especially with the 2010 World Cup just around the corner but the market is becoming increasingly more competitive.
Places like airports, hotels and restaurants are providing their guests with free Wi-Fi access and HSDPA services offer far superior value for money.
A long standing complaint with Wi-Fi services is that they are overpriced. While Vodacom's latest offerings bring improved value for money and competition to the market, it is unlikely to persuade knowledgeable broadband users to switch from HSDPA to Wi-Fi.