Uncapped mobile data abusers and broadband “thieves”

South Africans often compare local cellular prices to those in the US, bemoaning how expensive local services are compared to the States.

However, these comparisons don’t always take the many differences between the local market and the US into account.

That’s not to say local services are priced better, but it is interesting to take note of the differences when they are put into sharp relief – as was the case recently.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere wrote a blog post about how the network was going to clamp down on “abusers”.

Legere said data “thieves” were hooking their phones up to their PCs and downloading large quantities of data over their unlimited LTE plans.

The issue is that T-Mobile only offers unlimited data for on-device browsing. When you tether the device to your PC, you are meant to be capped.

T-Mobile’s Unlimited 4G smartphone plan costs $80 per month (excluding VAT) and includes unlimited on-device talk, text, and data in North America.

When using your smartphone as a portable hotspot, however, you are limited to 7GB per month – after which you are throttled to 2G speeds.

On-device usage also has a fair use limit of 21GB – after which your usage will be reprioritised for the rest of the billing cycle.

Legere said some subscribers had found ways to circumvent these caps and restrictions, with one user downloading 2TB worth of data.

This group of subscribers – 0.01% of T-Mobile’s userbase – was “stealing” high-speed tethered data, and could negatively impacting the user experience for all customers, said Legere.

For this reason, T-Mobile will clamp down on these subscribers – starting with the 3,000 “thieves” it has identified.

Those who do not heed T-Mobile’s warning will be permanently kicked off the Unlimited 4G plan and moved onto the carrier’s capped packages.

Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom vs T-Mobile

To see how South African mobile operators compare to T-Mobile, we looked at the US carrier’s cheapest and most expensive smartphone plans, and compared them to those of South Africa’s mobile networks.

To eliminate cost-of-living and earning power from the comparison, we used the purchasing power parity conversion factor for private consumption from the World Bank.

It is worth noting that T-Mobile’s smartphone plan is month-to-month, while those from Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom are 6 – 24 month contracts.

Cell C offers SIM-only smartphone plans on a month-to-month basis.

Top-end plans Price in $intl. Local price (ZAR excl. VAT) Data Voice SMS
T-Mobile Simple Choice Unlimited Nationwide 4G $80 $80 (R1,067 excl.) 21GB / 7GB*
Cell C Infinity Select $153 R999 (R876 excl.) 10GB
Telkom Completely Unlimited $184 R1,199 (R1,052 excl.) 10GB*
Vodacom Red VIP $253 R1,649 (R1,447 excl.) 5GB
MTN Sky $284 R1,849 (R1,622 excl.) 10GB*
Cheapest smartphone plans Price ($intl.) Price (local) Data Voice SMS
T-Mobile Simple Choice 1GB $50 $50 (R667 excl.) 1GB*
Vodacom Smart S $32 R209 (R183 excl.) 400MB 150 400
Cell C SmartChat 1GB $15 R99 (R87 excl.) 512MB 25 0
Telkom SmartPlan 50 $11 R79 (R60 excl.) 500MB 50 5 for 50
MyMTN Choice 25 + 5MB $7 R44 (R39 excl.) 5MB 25 0
R13.34/USD, R5.71/$intl., *Not caps. Fair use limits for on-device/tethered use.

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Uncapped mobile data abusers and broadband “thieves”