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The math, the rigidity, and the stupidity of Safaricom Flex Bundles

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  • 8 months ago
  • Posted: April 11, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Eleven days from today Safaricom Flex Bundles will be celebrating one month anniversary since launch. At birth, Safaricom Flex Bundles was celebrated as the final freedom provider to Safaricom service users. That with the Flex Bundles, no Safaricom customer ought to experience headaches ever again – almost literally. But hardly two weeks into the launch a number of Safaricom subscribers including those who pride themselves as decoders of the algorithms behind stock market graphs and charts seem unable to wrap their heads around the math around Safaricom Flex bundles – and they are not kidding.

The reason many Safaricom subscribers cannot come to terms with the Safaricom Flex Bundles is because the Flex Bundles is nothing more than a new tariff hiding behind what many have come to relate to as Data Bundles. Forgive me if that makes no sense but here is the simplified explanation:

Safaricom Flex Bundles and its math

There is no practical difference between Safaricom Flex Bundles from let’s say a new Tariff that would offer voice, data and text at hugely discounted rates. This is because the Flex units are not tied to one particular service e.g. data but get deducted whether voice, text or data is consumed. The comparison between Safaricom Flex Bundles and a service like Airtel Unliminet should make more sense, and I will do that shortly.

In the meantime here is the breakdown of Safaricom Flex Bundles.

Purchasing Safaricom Flex Bundles for Shs 2,499 will give you 3,100 Flex units to use in data, voice, or text anyhow you like. This means that one Flex Bundle is worth Shs 0.806 (around 81 cents). If you purchase one week bundle, then the cost of one Flex unit rises to Shs 0.855 (around 86 cents). If your purchase the daily shs 99 Flex Bundles then the cost rises to Shs 0.86 per unit (also around 86 cents) and if you purchase the daily shs 50 units then the cost rises to Shs 1 per flex unit.

One unit of Flex bundle can go to data, or voice or text as per the explanation below:

Voice rate – After buying your flex bundles, let’s say the 3100 units for Shs 2,499, then making a call for one minute will consume 3 flex units which is equivalent to Shs 0.806 times 3 (0.806*3) which comes to roughly Shs 2.42 per minute. After the one minute call, you will remain with 3,097 Flex units.

Data rate – Let us assume that after the call you will now spend the next one hour browsing at the rate of 10MBs per minute. In one hour, you shall have consumed 600MBs. Consuming 3MBs of data will deduct 1 Flex unit, meaning consuming 600MBs will deduct 200 Flex units. Remember one flex unit is worth Shs 0.806 for the monthly rate thus the one hour browsing will have cost you Shs 161.23 – thus 1MB of data costs shs 0.269. You can compare this with the monthly data bundle for Shs 2,000 which gives you 7.5GB of data at the rate of 0.267 per MB. That is, if you were to consume the entire 3100 Flex units on data bundles, then you will have 9.3GB of data at your disposal for Shs 2,499. Anyway, after one minute of phone call and one hour worth of browsing, your new flex balance should be 2897 units.

Text rate – Assuming further that after your call then browsing you decide to send 3 text messages, then your new flex bundles will be 2896. This is because 3 text messages will consume 1 Flex Unit, and if your Flex Units is the monthly rate of Shs 0.806 per unit, then you shall have spent Shs 0.269 per text message.

If the above is still complicated, then let us summarise what I have just said in a table:

Monthly Flex Bundle Rates Uwezo Tariff Rates Monthly Data Bundles for Shs 2K
Voice Per minute Shs 2.42 Shs 4 or Shs 3 NA
Text Shs 0.269 Shs1 NA
Data per MB Shs 0.269 Shs 8 Shs 0.267

What should be clear from the above is that if you are on Uwezo tariff, then you will spend an upward of shs 3 per minute to make calls, shs 1 per text message, and probably Shs 0.267 per MB if you opt to purchase the Shs 2,000 7.5GB data. Alternatively, you could opt to spend Shs 2.42 per minute on voice, Shs 0.269 per text message, and shs 0.269 per MB of data by simply purchasing 3,100 monthly flex units for Shs 2,499.

The rigidity of Safaricom Flex Bundles

Safaricom Flex Bundles are supposed to be flexible, in that the bundles should allow you to access voice, data and text all within one bundle purchase. If you don’t opt for the Flex Bundles, your choice will be to purchase data bundles then use direct Airtime to make calls and send text messages.

To give customers more discount also on voice and texts, the telcos have come up with options such as the Airtel Unliminet that provide subscribers with the ability to purchase bundled data, bundled airtime and bundled text messages for a prescribed amount of money. For instance, purchasing Airtel Unliminet for Shs 1,000 every month ought to give you 2GB of data, 400 minutes talk time, and 2000 text messages.

What happens when you run out of data but you still have 350 of talk time and 1990 text messages and your Unliminet is about to expire? Many would have wanted to be able to transform text messages and airtime to data – since with data you can decide to watch endless YouTube videos and exhaust the entire bundles before the expiry time. Since this is not possible, the best one can do with Unliminet is to renew the bundle before expiry and accumulate Airtime and text messages on end- and it may reach a time when there are 20,890 of unused Airtime and over 100,000 of unused text messages. This scenario is what Safaricom Flex Bundles intends to prevent.

But the Flex Bundles is still rigid. The rigidity of Safaricom Flex Bundles become obvious when the Flex bundles are about to expire, or has run out, and you do not have the required finances to renew whatever bundles you have purchased – be it daily, weekly or monthly.

For example, my first monthly Flex bundles ran out when I had zero cash on me, luckily I still had Shs 2,567 in airtime so I just renewed the monthly flex bundle. If the Shs 2,567 of airtime wasn’t available in my line, then I could have been forced to revert to direct airtime consumption – yet I could access some Shs 500 I could use to buy new monthly Flex bundles.

The point is there may come a time when a monthly Flex user has his/her Flex bundles about to expire. Since the only way to reasonably extend the Flex bundles would be to buy another monthly Flex bundle for shs 2,499, them being broke at the time of expiry is direct punishment by Safaricom. What if they could be able to extend any remaining Flex units for another month but only with shs 500? I bet that would make sense to very many monthly subscribers.

Majority of daily Flex users have been complaining too. Not everyone can afford Shs 99 each day (the only option that was available at launch) or even the newly introduced shs 50 flex bundle, but a number of subscribers would love to have a shs 20 daily option. This is something that Safaricom itself found out when they introduced the bamba 20 and bamba 10 credit units. Airtel also introduced their daily Unliminet at Shs 50 and Shs 100 options, but later realized that they needed to introduce the Shs 20 Unliminet option too.

For the weekly option, It would be great to have a Shs 100 per week, a shs 250 option per week, and Shs 500 option per week (instead of shs 599 per week). For the monthly options, more flexibility should be introduced through Shs 500 monthly, Shs 1000 monthly, and the shs 2,499 monthly. The fact that these options are unavailable makes Flex Bundles be too rigid, financially, for many us.

The Stupidity of Safaricom Flex Bundles

As explained in the math section, there is no practical difference between consuming direct airtime under a tariff and the Flex Bundles – and the only difference between the Flex Bundles and Uwezo tariff is cost. So, why can’t Safaricom introduce a new tariff which charges shs 2.42 per minute on voice, shs 0.269 on text and shs 0.269 on data? In this new tariff, you won’t have to purchase some Flex units but simply recharge your line with Airtime, and use your Airtime as you pleases for voice, data, and text without worrying about the cost.

Since Safaricom will say that the difference between a new tariff and the current Flex Bundles is the upfront deduction of airtime (be it shs 50, shs 99, shs 599 or shs 2499 that are currently available), what Safaricom can do is to say that in the new tariff the minimum airtime one has to load is something like shs 500 – and after that you use your airtime on voice, text and data as you deem fit but at the hugely discounted rates.

I find that the option of introducing a new tariff is way smarter compared to the existing complicated Flex Bundles options that I consider stupid – and rigid yet it is supposed to be flexible.

And to any in Safaricom reading this, where are my weekly statements on Flex usage? Also, why aren’t those buying Safaricom Flex via MPESA getting their bonus Flex units?

What is your opinion on the topic?
Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Analytics Ltd



Odipo Riaga is a Technology Blogger interested in emerging tech such as VR and AR, AI, Life Extension, Exponential Biotech, Immortality, Cyborgs and many others.


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