Victory for the consumer! In less than three months since the launch of #DataMustFall, mobile data prices have started to come down!
At least, that’s what the creator of the #DataMustFall campaign, Thabo “Tbo Touch” Molefe, will have his followers on Twitter believe.
The truth is, this is not really what happened.
On 15 September, the self-styled champion for the average South African gave mobile networks an ultimatum: make a change in 30 days or he will get everyone to move to a network “that cares about its customers”.
By 18 November, he had turned his coat yellow, advertising MTN contract and weekly data bundles on his Twitter timeline.
To make matters worse, he was not even plugging new products – the MTN Sky Lite deal and 1GB weekly bundle for R65 he praised were available well before the launch of #DataMustFall.
Within two hours of his puzzling endorsement of MTN, all was revealed. MTN had zero-rated data when listening to Touch Central from 18:00 to 20:00 on weekdays.
Touch Central’s price, it seems, is as low as a promotion that benefits only itself. And thus #DataMustfall is brought low by a deal that is actually worse than the zero-rating campaign MTN and WeChat offered to CliffCentral in 2014.
On 28 November, Molefe followed up the zero-rating announcement with an endorsement of MTN’s promotional contract package – a 24-month deal which you could only take up on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Molefe also promised that he was in discussions with Vodacom and would be meeting with the network this week.
Below are three statements Tbo Touch has made recently that either make false comparisons or are at odds with the original #DataMustFall campaign.
Touch vs. Reality: Stop being ungrateful, what more do you want?
From R160 for 1Gig to R65 and R99 for 2Gig a week. Come on please Stop being ungrateful what more do you want #Datafalling @MTNza— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) November 18, 2016
Reality: You are comparing a 30-day 1GB bundle (R160) to a bundle that is only valid for 7 days (R65). Furthermore, if you factor in MTN’s Dataaaa! promotion, you actually get another 500MB of data valid for 15 days with your 30-day 1GB bundle.
What’s worse, these weekly bundles you plugged are not new at all. They existed before #DataMustFall. Why are they suddenly good enough?
Molefe was asked to comment on this, but did not respond.
Touch vs. Reality: Free, faster public Wi-Fi
We planting Free Faster wifi in Malls, Bus Station, Universities and City Parks! #Datafalling I believe in SA🇿🇦— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) November 18, 2016
Reality: Local governments in Tshwane, Cape Town, and Johannesburg are rolling out free Wi-Fi with various partners. This has been happening since well before #DataMustFall.
Touch vs. Reality: No network can match this
Do your calculations 50 Gigs plus 10000 min calls for R149 is R3 for a Gig no network can match this. I challenge them. #MTNcybermonday— Tbo Touch (@iamtbotouch) November 27, 2016
Reality: This is a promotional 24-month contract that you could only buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Unless you had to upgrade, or were in the market for a new contract, this was all but useless to you.
And since when does #DataMustFall care about contract pricing, let alone promotional pricing?
It is also curious that there was very little noise from Touch Central when Afrihost launched its specials with Xiaomi that include 500MB to 2GB of free data for 12 months with the purchase of a new smartphone.
Molefe was asked why #DataMustFall started considering promotional pricing when it didn’t before, but he did not respond.