After the rug was pulled out from under them at the start of 2015, Data SIM is back with a new uncapped mobile data product.
Though it costs R20 more per month than the previous deal, and it is on the Telkom network rather than MTN’s, the heart of the service remains the same: for a fixed monthly fee you get an uncapped, but heavily-restricted mobile data service.
According to the Data SIM website, the service offers the following features:
- Uncapped Internet Browsing
- Uncapped Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
- Uncapped Whatsapp / BBM / Viber
- Uncapped Emailing / Downloading attachments
- Other social media sites and services
Not mentioned on the front page of the site is that data speeds are throttled to around 200kbps. The product details page lists the maximum speed as 282kbps.
Blocked services listed on the site include: Youtube and other streaming sites, pornography, and downloading.
More restrictions revealed in tests
To test Data SIM, we ordered one of its uncapped SIMs online.
Data SIM provided a card which listed access point name (APN) configuration instructions for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Symbian, and iOS.
We tested it in an iPhone and an Android device, and the instructions worked as advertised.
After testing browsing, we checked whether it was possible to access the respective application stores of either mobile operating system.
We could not download apps from Google Play or the Apple App Store, or access the storefronts.
While the iPhone did let us create a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, tethering seemed to run over the normal Telkom APN, and not the Vetex APN.
This means it was not possible to use the uncapped Data SIM connection on a PC through an iPhone.
On Android, it was a different story, and tethering a PC to our smartphone let us test some of the other limits of the Data SIM service.
Among them was that downloads around 2MB or more are blocked, with certain exceptions.
For example: downloading a 2MB .zlist file from a local Ubuntu mirror was blocked, while a 4MB download of source code from Github (which did not report the file size) was allowed.
It was not possible to make an FTP connection to the Ubuntu mirror at all.
The HTTP download tests conducted also suggest that speeds to some servers were allowed to run at almost 1Mbps, while our download from Github crawled between 50kbps and 200kbps.
Trying to browse Flickr at these speeds proved impossible.
Social media, messaging, and VoIP tests
Our tests on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp behaved as expected (keeping in mind a maximum speed of 284kbps), including streaming video from Facebook.
However, we could not get Skype to sign in. WhatsApp voice calls also refused to connect, though they did ring.
During our first test of Instagram on Data SIM, pictures refused to download. When we tested again the following day, Instagram worked as it should.
Bottom-line: probably not worth it
For under R169 per month, you can get 1GB of data from Vodacom or Cell C; or 2GB of data from MTN (Da-taaa! promotion).
Subtracting the R50 airtime included with Data SIM still leaves R119 per month – the same price as a 1GB Telkom Mobile data bundle.
You will probably be far better off with any of the above options rather than with Data SIM.
Taking into account all the restrictions on the service, it is unlikely that you will get more value from it than a normal 1GB data bundle.
This doesn’t mean a product like Data SIM doesn’t have its place, though.
If you would like to get a restricted uncapped mobile data service for your children, or if you blow through a gig of data per month with your smartphone just on normal browsing, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter, then Data SIM could be just what you need.