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Networks join iPad war ‚ 8ta first with data deal

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As South Africa’s mobile networks put together plans for offering the iPad on contracts, 8ta is first out of the gates with a dedicated iPad data plan launching this morning. Other networks are expected to follow, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Shortly before dawn on Friday, 4 February, Telkom’s 8ta mobile network fired the first salvo in the iPad contact wars.

Since the announcement a week ago of the Apple iPad officially going on sale in South Africa, it has been expected that the networks would announce contract packages. However, Apple had not previously sanctioned bundled deals for the iPad, and the question remained how the networks would get around this restriction.

This morning’s announcement from 8ta reveals one of the usage models that will be available to South Africans.

It will offer dedicated data plans for iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G in South Africa beginning immediately. It offers access to its 3G data network and all data plans will be available without a contract, allowing users to activate or cancel a plan at any time.

The bundles range from R120 for 512MB to R299 for 3GB of data. The rates do not compare to, say, a Cell C 3G package, which would offer 5GB a month for R249. However, the 8ta rate is for once-off purchases, and does not lock the user in to any commitment. Nevertheless, this gives other networks substantial leeway to improve on the 8ta offering, espeically since 8ta’s out-of-bundle rate for this service will be a high R1 per MB (see www.8ta.com/pages/plans/ipad/ for more information).

Telkom is keen to see the iPad take off ‚ on its network. Its announcement sings the praises of the device: ‚iPad allows users to connect with their apps and content in a more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before. Users can browse the web, read and send email, enjoy and share photos, watch HD videos, listen to music, play games, read ebooks and much more, all using iPad’s revolutionary Multi-Touch user interface. iPad with Wi-Fi + 3G models are just 0.5 inches thick and weigh just 1.6 pounds‚Äîthinner and lighter than any laptop or netbook‚Äîand deliver up to 10 hours of battery life for surfing the web on Wi-Fi, watching videos or listening to music, and up to nine hours of surfing the web using a 3G data network.‚

8ta is working closely with iStores on the offering. Says AmithMaharaj, Managing Executive of 8ta, ‚The prepaid data bundles will be offered at a preferential rate that is exclusive to iStore sales of the device. 8ta post paid data bundles for the iPad will be offered at a later stage.‚

The announcement is a coup for 8ta, although it is a deal that can be quickly replicated by other networks. Maharaj argues that it reveals 8ta’s clout:

‚The exclusivity of this bundled deal is indicative of the impact that 8ta, as a brand, has made not only to consumers but also with multinational corporations such as Apple. This announcement reinforces 8ta’s promise to launch new and exciting products to our customers and is the result of the flexibility of our new generation all IP core network and a very passionate and focused team.

‚South African consumers have been anticipating the local unveiling of this exciting device and we are proud to be selected as the preferred data provider. We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Apple.‚

Gadget understands that other networks are also eager to include the iPad in their offerings, with data plans the obvious first step. Since a new version of the iPad is due out this year, it is unlikely they will invest too heavily in the type of 24-month contracts that apply to phones. However, the enthusiastic response to the release of the iPad in South Africa last week suggests there is still much mileage to be had from the current version.

Watch this space.

– Follow Arthur on Twitter on @art2gee

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