What can I do about my high cellular data bills?

Are you feeling frustrated by data that depletes faster? Is your smart phone emptying your wallet and you can’t account for depleted data bundles, which you don’t recall using?

MTN explains that users are consuming more data unknowingly and can be attributed to the following:

  • LTE compliant handsets: Like other mobile networks, MTN has rolled out long-term evolution aka LTE or 4G. This offers faster data speed, which means subscribers with LTE devices are able to download more data in less time than they used to. Users can undertake a variety of data applications such as browsing the web, sending and receiving e-mails, interacting on social media platforms and streaming, downloading and sending high definition videos using instant messaging platforms. Unfortunately the benefit from this speed comes at cost as LTE compatible handsets utilise a lot of data when accessing applications. In other words, the faster the speeds, the more data bundles will be utilised.
  • Smartphone Handsets: There has been an increase in enhanced smartphone handsets in the market due to affordable pricing. When customers purchase or upgrade to a new smartphone handset, the effects of the device is not always understood properly. Some devices have none or limited data functionality and others have full data functionality, which is directly linked to data usage. Some of these new smartphones also allow apps to work in the background regardless if you are using them directly or not. As long as the apps are running on the device they will continue using data.
  • Automatic updates: Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram have incorporated their way into our daily lives. Since entering the market, these platforms are continuously being updated in response to consumer demands. Generally, these updates are automatic and continue to run in the background and the updates often happen without customer interference, using data bundles. MTN says: “These automatic updates are default settings on many phones. Most customers are not aware that some automatic updates can consume up to 3GB of data.” To stop automatic updates, users must go to their cellular dating setting and de-active updates if they wish to save their data bundles. Alternatively, users can update more cost effectively using Wi-Fi.
  • Social media goes HD: Both Facebook and Instagram have upgraded to high definition (HD) resolution, which is now an industry standard. Although the format is crisper and picture resolution is more detailed, the higher pixel rating of HD has a bigger capacity and there consumes more data.
  • Software updates: We all want to use the latest software as it has benefits of being an improved version of what we used in the past and has additional functionalities. Unfortunately, software updates require data. For example, Microsoft launched the free update to Windows 10, which is a download of around 3GB.
  • Browsing the web: Most websites are very interactive but what you don’t realise is that logging onto these sites often results in data being unknowingly consumed by adverts running on the page while one is browsing a specific article.
  • Photo and video sharing: Instant messaging platforms (e.g. WhatsApp) have become a preferred mode of communication and sharing content i.e. photos and video content. While this may seem cost effective, many users are unaware that sending videos and pictures consume data bundles, and this can escalate up to 16MB per message.
  • Out of bundle rates: MTN said that changes it has made to its pricing to bring itself in line with industry norms might create the impression of data disappearance. It made some data bundles last only 30 days, where they used to last 60, and it changed its out-of-bundle data rates to 99c per megabyte. Vodacom said it hasn’t changed its prices. Customers are advised to purchase data bundles that suit their consumption patterns and buy them when they have reached their monthly allocation.

Who can you contact? 

To check your balance or buy data bundles, contact your network provider:

MTN: Dial *141#. If you have any concerns regarding your MTN account or data usage, you can contact the MTN customer centre at 808 (from an MTN connected cell phone).

Vodacom: Dial *111#. If you have any concerns over your account and data usage, you can contact Vodacom customer care on 082111.

Cell C: Dial 140, this call is free from any Cell C phone; or if you’re calling from any other line or network, dial 084140 (normal rates apply).