8ta fires the next salvo
[By Candice Jones]
The battlefield is ready, the guns are out and SA’s mobile operators are shuffling troops into position for what could turn into a protracted war.
The latest operator to fire a salvo into the field of battle is Telkom’s 8ta, with its launch this Easter weekend of its new BlackBerry service.
Telkom’s pricing is aggressive — up to R10 cheaper than competitive offers — and is also offering “free” access to YouTube (up to 500MB of use per month) and calls to a customer-designated Telkom landline.
8ta, launched last year, has been sitting on the sidelines. Within the first month of launch, it had signed up 186 000 customers. But talk in the industry is that it’s snagged mainly only low-paying customers, not the high spenders who push up average revenue per user, a key industry measure.
After it’s high-profile marketing launch, it has also faded somewhat from consumer attention.
It tried its hand at tapping high-end subscribers by signing a deal with Core Group, SA’s Apple distributor, to bring data packages to iPads. It’s not yet clear how well the data deal has worked for the company, though we will get a clearer idea when Telkom presents its annual results in June.
Nevertheless, 8ta appeared to have lost some momentum. It’s deal with BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) could help get the attention of consumers focused back on it.
South Africans are BlackBerry-crazy. Though RIM won’t say how many of the devices it’s sold here, operators like Vodacom report brisk sales. In March last year, Simon Dingle of Fin24 spoke to RIM joint CEO Jim Balsillie, who said SA was one of the fastest-growing markets for the company.
And just last week Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys told journalists that the company sells more BlackBerry devices than any other type of smartphone.
Vodacom has 1m BlackBerrys on its network, compared to 150 000 iPhones and just over 100 000 Android devices.
Part of the attraction of the BlackBerry is that it allows for unlimited surfing, e-mail, social networking and instant messaging as part of a cost-effective monthly package. 8ta has taken the service one step further by giving users access to 500MB of YouTube videos.
I avoid watching YouTube on my phone because of the prohibitive cost of mobile data, even though it is getting better. 8ta takes the worry out of the equation. And the fact that the opening offer is about R10 less than its competitors should give it the edge.
Now, the only question is: when and how will its rivals retaliate?
- Candice Jones is deputy editor of TechCentral