Telecoms operator cuts digital TV decoder price to woo viewers

Safaricom has slashed the prices of its Internet-enabled digital TV decoders by 50 per cent in a re-launch meant to address the low uptake of the devices dubbed ‘The Big Box’.

The telco last Friday started selling the devices for Sh4,999 which is half the price the decoders have been retailing at since being launched in May.

Safaricom has sold more than 1,500 devices in seven months, a period occasioned by technical glitches that in August forced the firm to suspend sales to facilitate a software upgrade.

READ: Safaricom puts sale of digital decoders on hold

The NSE-listed telco also increased data bundle prices meant for use on the ‘The Big Box’, terming the old rate as an “introductory offer” which was “heavily discounted”.

“We believe that the new price point will enable us attract a wider set of users to the product as it is now the lowest priced 4G Wi-fi device in the market,” said Sylvia Mulinge, Safaricom consumer business director.

The telco unveiled the 4G-enabled devices betting on the demand created by the migration of analogue TV broadcasting to digital platform to drive sales of the decoder.

The device incorporates data and Pay-TV services, more than 30 free-to-air channels, TV recording capability, and USB and SD media playback for pictures, music and videos. It has an in-built SIM card whose number can be used to buy Internet bundles.

The device, however, suffered a technical glitch where Wi-Fi function was not strong enough to support indoor Internet access, forcing Safaricom to suspend sales of the boxes in August.

“We have consistently addressed technical issues over time since May and have been sending updates and re-testing with our existing customers,” said Ms Mulinge.

Customers will now have to part with more money to load Internet bundles. Through a monthly data bundle option, subscribers could previously purchase 50GB bundles for Sh4,000, 20GB for Sh2,000, 10GB for Sh1,500 and 6GB for Sh999.

Bundle prices

The new monthly plans will now see users buy 5GB for Sh1,199, 15GB for S,199 and 30GB for Sh5,999, a more expensive offering than the one Safaricom outlined in May.

“The new bundle prices have been adjusted slightly but still remain attractive and highly discounted compared to our regular mobile data bundle prices,” said Ms Mulinge.

“These bundles are exclusive to the Big Box only and cannot be purchased for any other device.” When the Big Box was launched, users could buy it using two options.

The first one involved a six-month instalment plan that comprises an initial payment of Sh4,999 followed by Sh999 monthly instalments while the second required a one-off payment of Sh9,999.

Safaricom has now collapsed these choices into one where users pay the lower one-off fee of Sh4,999 which comes with three gigabytes (GB) of free Internet data.

The telco is actively eyeing the broadcast business seeking extra income away from its traditional voice, text messaging, data and its mobile money platform Mpesa.

In August, it applied for a licence to operate a commercial free-to-air television station. It has also applied for an Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) licence which will see them deliver video programmes via the Internet.