Virgin Mobile South Africa: Too Late, Too Little

Virgin Mobile South Africa is hoping to sign up 1 million new subscribers this year, about 10% of market share, by preying on the discontent clients are experiencing with the other 3 bigger networks. Do they have what it takes?


richard bransonVirgin Mobile has been operating in South Africa since 2006, they have not released any recent specific subscriber numbers, reported in 2013 that Virgin had 500 000 subscribers (up from 300 000 the year before). This was still less than half of its nearest competitor at the time, Telkom Mobile, which boasted 1.5 million subscribers at the time. It is believed among tech circles, that the reluctance of the company in releasing subscriber numbers is that they have missed their targets numerous times. Gaining traction in the South African market was always going to be difficult with the 3 big dogs already entrenched in the minds and pockets of the South African population.

Virgin Mobile’s modus operandi is present the client with simplicity, none of the mix and match options that the other operators provide. Along with this strategy they have stocked limited brands. Is this strategy working? Tarifica, a provider of telecom pricing information, conducted a study, comparing each operator based on package tiers, coverage, and call rates which was then split into 2 categories, plans with and without phones.


The LG L40 at Virgin Mobile

Their “with Phones” tabulation topped only one category, Monthly rental fee of R100 or less for an LG L40. A device that list with cons and no pros, while calling it a great back up device to your primary one. You will be forgiven for not rushing to your nearest Virgin dealer, if you can find one. It is also worthy to note that Virgin topped none of the “without phones” comaprisons. 


Until further reliable figures are made available, the growth or decline of Virgin Mobile is anyone’s guess, but when weighing up the options elsewhere, this relatively newcomer hasn’t much to offer.


The story is stuff of legend, of how Virgin acquired its name, that when Richard Branson and his partner started their first business, they considered themselves virgins in the business world. Perhaps, not being one of the first operators in South Africa, they have taken the virgin rationale a little too far.


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Anesh Sukhnandan
Anesh Sukhnandan
I have travelled the full spectrum of what technology has to offer. The creature that is my career continued its evolution into the Project Management environment, managing major software development for some major players, right up to implementation, roll out and even training. Changing little, but changing often is my strategy for progress.