South African mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Virgin Mobile has confirmed that it has launched its long-promised data service, with its ‘FlexiStick 3G HSPA+ Modem’ now available to subscribers. The data modem is priced at ZAR50 (USD7.3) per month over a 24-month contract term. However, unlike competing offerings in the South African wireless market, the product does not include bundled data. Instead, all data usage from the first megabyte is charged in arrears at month-end and treated as ‘out-of-bundle usage’; data is priced at ZAR0.60 per MB. TechCentral notes that Virgin’s pricing plan works out ‘significantly higher’ than in-bundle contract rates charged by other operators. Telkom’s 8ta, it claims, currently offers 10GB of data for ZAR199 per month, although this excludes the cost of a modem. Jonathan Newman, Virgin Mobile’s chief marketing and strategy officer, commented: ‘With this contract offer, our customers effectively pay as they surf, using only what they need, without the usual wastage of data bundles’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Virgin Mobile South Africa launched in mid-June 2006, with plans to target the high-end of the market. Originally a joint venture between UK-owned Virgin Mobile and South African mobile operator Cell C, the South African partner sold its 50% stake in February 2011 to Bahamas-based Calico Investments for an undisclosed sum. As previously noted, Virgin Mobile piggybacks off Cell C’s network; in August 2010 it was reported that Virgin Mobile was planning to launch its own mobile broadband service using Cell C’s new HSPA+ network.