Vodacom hard caps its “uncapped” Home 5G products — here’s why

Vodacom launched uncapped home 5G products in July 2022. However, the packages cut subscribers off after reaching a certain usage threshold raising questions about whether they are genuinely “uncapped”.

While other fixed-5G providers implement fair usage policies (FUPs) on uncapped services, limiting speeds once subscribers consume a set amount of data, none implements a hard cap as Vodacom does.

MyBroadband asked Vodacom about the FUP for its uncapped home 5G products and why it implements a hard cap at a certain threshold.

The mobile network operator said it implements a hard lock on its “uncapped” home 5G packages to protect its network and ensure that all its customers receive “the best quality connectivity”.

“Our Home Internet products (including 5G) are designed to provide our customers with a ‘fibre-like’ connectivity for the home, especially in underserved areas,” a Vodacom spokesperson said.

“All Home Internet products provide a home connectivity/usage of 100GB and above, however it still works off our mobile network.”

The spokesperson explained that high data usage through a single tower in a densely populated area could hinder 5G connectivity as both uncapped 5G products and mobile 5G products run off the same site.

“In order to ensure the best quality connectivity for all our customers (on 5G Uncapped or mobile products), we have implemented this hard lock,” they added.

“To that end, we believe the FUPs and hard lock of 1.5TB and 2.5TB are reasonable and fair to our customers.”

However, the spokesperson specified that Vodacom set its caps “at an overstated usage value” that customers won’t reach, effectively providing an uninterrupted service.

“We are continually evaluating the data usage on these products, and our customers have not yet reached the hard lock,” they added.

“Should our customers reach the hard lock, we will reassess the hard lock and take appropriate steps.”

Vodacom’s Home Uncapped 5G fair usage policy is summarised in the table below.

Vodacom Home Internet 5G uncapped data thresholds
Package Fair usage policy
25Mbps 0GB – 1TB at up to 25Mbps;
FUP 1: 1TB – 1.5TB at 4Mbps; then
FUP 2: hard locked >1.5TB
50Mbps 0GB – 1TB at up to 50Mbps;
FUP 1: 1TB – 1.5TB at 4Mbps; then
FUP 2: hard locked >1.5TB
100Mbps 0GB – 1TB at up to 100Mbps;
FUP 1: 1TB – 2.5TB at 4Mbps; then,
FUP2: hard locked >2.5TB.
Best Effort 0GB – 1TB at maximum speeds;
FUP 1: 1TB – 2.5TB at 4Mbps; then,
FUP2: hard locked >2.5TB.

Why uncapped mobile broadband is a challenge

Mobile network operators in South Africa are unlikely to do away with FUPs for uncapped services, as the bandwidth available in wireless network spectrum is limited.

MyBroadband previously spoke to MTN and Rain regarding their FUPs. MTN SA’s executive for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan, said it implements data thresholds to protect the integrity of its network.

“As with all acceptable use policies, if the customer uses more than a certain, predetermined ‘fair’ amount of data in a given timeframe, their line speed could slow down during peak times, in order to allow other users to access the network fairly,” O’Sullivan explained.

On the other hand, Rain said all of its 5G Home products are uncapped.

“Our 5G Home products are all unlimited (uncapped), with their primary differentiators being speed,” it said.

Rain recently increased the prices of its 5G services for new customers, while doing away with limits on video streaming quality.

The table below shows how each mobile operator’s radio frequency spectrum assignments increased following Icasa’s auction.

It also compares mobile operators’ bandwidth to the estimated maximum capacity of O-band fibre to illustrate the constraints that mobile network operators face.

Network Capacity pre-spectrum auction Capacity post-spectrum auction
Vodacom 81MHz 191MHz
MTN 76MHz 186MHz
Cell C 76MHz 86MHz
Telkom 162MHz 204MHz
Rain 191MHz 213MHz
Fibre (O-band) 17,500,000MHz

Now read: Vodacom claims it hit 2.4Gbps 5G speeds — we tested it

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Vodacom hard caps its “uncapped” Home 5G products — here’s why