THE cost of telecommunications in South Africa is once again in the spotlight after Cell C launched a R175m marketing campaign on Monday, challenging consumers to ask their networks the real cost of making calls.

The latest move by the country’s third-largest mobile network operator, which seeks to increase its market share, is bound to rile its competition in the telecommunications space.

Competition among South African operators is now so fierce that in the past six months some have slashed the cost of calls between networks by more than 30%.

The arrival of cheap calls will be the latest chapter in the evolving story of mobile technology in South Africa, which now has 60-million active cellphones, according to Cell C.

The operator’s latest campaign follows the introduction of its Supacharge product, which offers 1,000 free SMSs, talk time and 1GB of data to prepaid and top-up customers when they recharge with R500 or more.

Jose dos Santos, Cell C’s chief commercial officer, said the goal of the campaign was to educate consumers about what they actually paid on their networks.

"Have we done enough to educate people on Cell C’s 99c packages?" Mr Dos Santos asked. "The answer is no — consumers still don’t know what they’re paying on their networks."

The operator has issued a challenge to consumers through its campaign, indirectly calling out other networks on their prices. It expects to invest R175m in the campaign over the next few months.

The pricing war was triggered by Telkom-owned 8ta in late 2011 when it introduced South Africa’s lowest fixed-line rates along with flat-rate international calls to more than 100 countries.

Other operators responded by reducing their tariffs or by introducing similar price plans. But following Monday’s announcement, the battlefield is wide open.