When I heard about the new NetOne 24/7 voice call bundles, I had to ask myself: how many regular voice calls did I made this past week?
There was a time when this wasn’t even something I had to wonder. Making regular voice calls was something that we just did. It was the pre-WhastApp time. To communicate, you either made calls or SMS messages. Both were ridiculously expensive but it was normal because we didn’t know any cheaper.
Then, mobile operators would charge about US 23 cents a minute. And SMS was 9 cents for every 160 characters.
Today, we buy WhatsApp bundles like NetOne’s own OneFusion. We use WhatsApp to make calls to people local and abroad. We send as many characters as we want, pictures, videos, & emojis. We communicate in so many ways for so much less it feels ridiculous we used to pay for communication by the minute and by the character once upon a time.
WhatsApp also works on WiFi, which means you can use it without paying anything to your mobile operator; Free WiFi hotspots, work WiFi, home WiFi…
So when NetOne today announced regular voice bundles at 10 cents per minute (the cheapest of the bundles the company is offering – see below), I thought about the number of calls I still make in a week and concluded: this Khuluma 24/7 thing belongs to an era in the past.
NetOne’s trying to solve a problem they solved already with their broadband products. No one today is complaining “voice calls are so expensive I don’t know what to do?” The problem and therefore complaint people have is something along the lines of “this data is so expensive. I’ll use it but I wish it would be cheaper”
To be clear, I have no doubt that people still make calls. There are certain things WhatsApp still can’t do. Like connect a call to a person who’s run out of WhatsApp data. And like I admit above, data itself is not cheap so such a scenario does play out often. I doubt though that people will start spending more on calls just because it’s 6 cents cheaper.
It even makes less sense that these cheaper calls are available as bundles, with the lowest rate being a $5 bundle. Essentially to access this bundle, I have to spend significantly more on my monthly communication bill. It doesn’t help that the $5 bundle is only valid for 5 days.
It’s not a reasonable proposition.
If I’m going to spend $5 more, why not just spend it on getting a bigger OneFusion bundle? Or better, just using the same note to get unlimited WhatsApp from the competition?
Here are the new Khuluma bundles:
But even if the above wasn’t a problem, that is if some NetOne customers decided to buy these voice bundles. The subscribers may make more calls, but because the rate per minute is lower, for NetOne to make more money (assuming they want to make more money), its subscribers will need to call significantly more. It doesn’t look like these Khuluma bundles incentivise that.
If anything, therefore, NetOne is running the high risk of making less money as a result of the new product, and not even attracting any new customers or giving new reason for existing ones to stay. I think that is not a good thing for the company.