Cell C announces free lifeline data package

Cell C has announced changes to its data offerings following engagements with the Competition Commission.

The mobile operator said it wants citizens to be able to stay connected, informed and safe during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The company’s voluntary offer is in line with Cell C’s commitment to digital inclusion, central to the objectives of the Data Services Market Inquiry recommendations,” said chief executive officer, Douglas Craigie Stevenson.

“It was encouraging that there is alignment with the Commission and Cell C’s drive for a social compact on data prices.”

Cell C chief legal officer, Zahir Williams clarified that the context of the agreement is based on Cell C’s social responsibility to ensure that lower-income consumers have access to essential communication services through the provision of free daily lifeline data and the zero-rating of essential government and educational services.

“It is important to keep in mind that the Inquiry did not find any evidence that Cell C had contravened the Competition Act, rather that certain industry-wide measures would improve access by lower-income consumers,” Williams said.

The most notable changes are outlined below.


Lifeline package

Cell C will offer a free lifeline package by 1 May 2020 –  capped at 250KB per day at a bundle size determined by Cell C for pre-paid customers.

The group said it will further enhance its lifeline package to allow for direct messaging to another Cell C customer via the Cell C App (and portal).

The package also includes:

  • Delivery conversion to SMS (i.e. SMS delivery fall back) for customers who are not on the app;
  • 5 free SMS per customer per day (Cell C to Cell C);
  • 7 free Call Me per day (across network and currently available);
  • Free basics (internet.org) access.

Customers can access the lifeline bundle via a USSD string/Cell C App or portal.

When the request is received the system will check if the customer qualifies, before sending out an SMS confirmation.

When the bundle is completely depleted or if it is not and expires at 00h00, the system will send the customer a depletion/expiry message.

Cell C said that the bundle does not allow for video streaming other than on YouTube where there is some educational and health content available.

Effective rate notification/transparency

To ensure transparency for the benefit of customers, Cell C said it will also implement Effective Rate (ER) notifications that allows customers to check usage per MB price.

The platform will assist customers to view a single landing page / USSD (shortcode) number that directs them to promotional or personalised offers. The effective rate will take between six and nine months to implement, Cell C said.

Zero-rating of Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) content

Cell C said it will provide zero-rated access to customers on websites of designated PBOs on an affordable limit. These include the national government and local government content focused on:

  • Education (health.gov.za)
  • Health (education.gov.za)
  •  Social Services (sassa.gov.za)
  • Child welfare (childwelfare.org.za)
  • Transport (transport.gov.za)
  • Security (saps.gov.za)
  • Home Affairs (dha.gov.za)
  • Eskom & local power utilities
  •  Prasa and other transport services servicing the mass market segment
  • South African Depression and Anxiety Support (SADAG) – sadag.org
  • Lifeline – lifelinesa.co.za
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) – nspca.co.za

Read: MTN announces massive price cuts and free data

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Cell C announces free lifeline data package