The Cell C Lifeline Package doesn’t offer customers in need all that much

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As many South Africans settle in to their new home offices, data usage and the price of that data is still a concern for many.

We’ve seen many network operators and internet service providers coming to the aid of South Africans struggling with connectivity at home and now Cell C has thrown its hat into the ring as well.

The thing is, while many companies have detailed what they are doing right now, Cell C’s plans only come into effect on 1st May.

So what is Cell C offering its customers?

To speak frankly, not much.

Customers will be able to message other contacts using the Cell C app.

Customers will also get five free SMS per day but will only be able to text other Cell C customers and seven free Call Me’s per day. Of note is the fact that Cell C already offers its subscribers five free SMS a day through the Cell C app.

These benefits aren’t even automatically applied and customers will be required to dial a USSD shortcode or visit the Cell C app to see if they qualify for these benefits.

Customers will also have access to Free Basics, though that is currently available for Cell C subscribers and shouldn’t be seen as a new offering.

In fact, this is what Cell C offers for free at the moment as well as what the Lifeline Package offers:

Existing Free offers Lifeline Package
Zero rating the national COVID-19 website ( Unknown Data bundle
Free push SMSes promoting the COVID-19 WhatsApp number 0600 123 456 Delivery conversion to SMS (i.e. SMS delivery fall back) for customers who are not on the App
Free access to Mpilo: Healthcare in Your Hands app, which was recently enhanced to help with Coronavirus screenings 5 FREE SMS per customer per day (Cell C to Cell C) PLUS
Access to Free Basics by Facebook, which provides people with access to useful services on their mobile phones in markets where internet access may be less affordable 7 FREE Call Me per day (across network and currently available) PLUS
Free Access to MomConnect, The Department of Health’s maternal service Free basics ( access
Free access to essential information such as local and international headlines, education sites, health sites, weather services and more through Free Basics/
5 Free SMSes per day, which is available through the Cell C app (also zero rated for our customers)


It’s unclear exactly what value this Lifeline Package actually has then, especially with many of the services already available right now.

There is also a rather confusing statement regarding this Lifeline bundle.

“Cell C will by 1 May 2020, launch a free lifeline package capped at 250KB per day at a bundle size determined by Cell C, accessible to the Cell C pre-paid customer base,” the firm said.

We’ve asked for clarity on what this means because we honestly have no clue what the operator was trying to say here. Will we only get 250KB? Will the speed be limited to 250Kbps? We’re awaiting clarity on this matter.

Cell C has put measures in place to manage “potential fraudulent usage / abuse”. These measures mean the only place you can stream video is YouTube.

Customers will not be able to use the lifeline data to stream content from Netflix, Showmax, Google Movies, Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV, Spotify, Joox, Google Music or Apple Music.

“Cell C will implement Effective Rate (ER) notifications that will allow customers to check usage per MB price. This enhances price transparency, particularly for products no shorter than 30-day bundles, hybrid and post-paid customers. The platform will assist customers to view a single landing page / USSD (short code) number that directs them to promotional or personalised offers. The effective rate will take a period of 06-09 months to implement,” the network operator added.

So to sum up then, you will get a bit of data, five SMS to use only for messages to other Cell C subscribers, zero-rated access to the Cell C app and some please call mes.

Hell, you can’t even use the data freely as there is a restriction on what content can be streamed.

While it’s important to note that while Cell C has made this offer voluntarily (unlike Vodacom which was forced to implement changes by the Competition Commission of South Africa) the offer is rather weak.

We understand the firm is struggling financially but the only real new thing being offered here is a free data bundle and there are no details in that regard.

The company says it is working to zero-rate the websites of some tertiary and health institutions to enable free usage but, again, there is no word on that or how long it’s going to take.

In addition, this Lifeline Package will only be available from 1st May, long after the lockdown is expected to end.

In a time where South Africans are trying their damnedest to keep their heads above water we’d really hoped the mobile network operators would have been more willing to offer up free data or heavily discounted bundles.

Instead it seems we’re getting the bare minimum from these businesses.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.