Tarifica, a US company that tracks telecoms prices, has put together a ranking of cellphone contracts in South Africa to show which package offers subscribers the best value. What makes Tarifica’s index particularly interesting is that while it does differentiate between contracts that include a phone and those that don’t, it doesn’t limit the comparison to within price brackets. Instead, Tarifica calculates a score for every plan, which can be used to compare plans across different price ranges. Because mobile operators tend to publish new deals every month, Tarifica recalculates its scores monthly to ensure it remains current. This means that the rankings shown in the below table should only be considered as accurate for the month of August, or for as long as the deals used in the comparison remain unchanged. This data is plugged into an algorithm which was built to distill the consumer-friendliness of a contract plan to a single number. Tarifica’s model was built by a team of analysts and shown to a number of operators and regulators around the world for feedback. In addition to the overall rankings, Tarifica also provided charts of plans per price bracket.
The next table shows how South Africa’s mobile operators compare with respect to contracts that include a device. Tarifica’s spokesperson explained that features easily substituted by so-called “over-the-top” services were weighted significantly less than others.


SMS, for example, is easily substituted by instant messaging applications, so the number of text messages included on a contract doesn’t impact the Tarifica score as much as data or voice does.
One of the winning plans this month — a Vodacom contract — had a promotion for an extra 1GB of data.
Weightings for the various features were chosen with the input from a survey conducted on consumers, Tarifica said, particularly those with heavy mobile usage habits.
The perceived value of the contract is further weighted according to an estimate of the service levels that can be expected from a network, such as download speeds and coverage.
Asked how they measure download speeds, Tarifica said that it uses a few different sources to get an average download speed from the network.
Queried about MTN’s relatively poor showing in their charts, Tarifica said the low data volumes on the majority of MTN’s plans negatively impacted their ranking. Tarifica said that even though MTN’s service level scores may be higher, it is hard to take advantage of their network. Two more tables are embedded below which show Tarifica’s overall rankings for contracts with and without phones in South Africa. The first table shows the Tarifica charts for August 2014 for contract plans without phones. Tarifica’s ranking of cellular contracts in South Africa which include mobile phones is shown in the table below.


Asked about their future plans for the Tarifica index, the spokesperson said they were considering including a bonus for plans with shorter contract lengths. Tarifica is also developing a model to compare the pre-paid options available from mobile operators around the world. Their analysts have built the model and are currently soliciting feedback from industry and regulators. This would require that their algorithm be run across the contracts in all of the countries that form part of the comparison, with adjustments for purchasing power parity to level the playing field.
The University of Cape Town is rated as South Africa’s top university, and it boasts some of the best students on the African continent. On the same contract Cell C is offering the Samsung Galaxy S5 at R549 per month (200 minutes, 22 SMS, 200MB + 800MB).Cell C are giving a massive amount of data with the Galaxy S5 which makes the contract very attractive.
Tarifica calculates a rating out of 100 for each contract relative to the other deals in the market.
When looking back at out records Cell C offer the iPhone 5s on the same contract at R549 at launch.




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