Many consumers are complaining that their airtime and mobile data is disappearing, and that data was being deducted from their mobile accounts even though they had not used the Internet.
One of these consumers is Radio 702’s Eusebius McKaiser, who has been complaining about disappearing data recently.
McKaiser argued that there may be more to the issue than users simply being unaware of how much data they use.
“There’s something suspiciously wrong with Vodacom data the last few weeks. My data keeps vanishing quicker than Bell Pottinger’s reputation,” said McKaiser.
“Vodacom – are you stealing our money beyond your already exorbitant data rates? Everyone is complaining about data vanishing in a puff of magic,” he said.
Vodacom responded, saying the reality is that data is not disappearing – we are just using more data at a much faster rate.
“The reason for the higher data use is because our smartphones are becoming more entrenched in all our daily activities,” Vodacom said.
This rapid increase in data usage goes hand-in-hand with the growth of faster networks and the availability of high-performance smartphones.
“For example, we see that a 3G device uses lot more data than a 2G device. If you go from a 3G to a 4G device, on average your data usage increases by about three times,” Vodacom said.
“As the quality of video and other content moves to high-definition and smartphone cameras become more sophisticated, file sizes are increasing rapidly and consumers are using more data,” the company said.
Changes in behaviour of both consumers and smartphone apps also contribute to increased data usage.
Watching a 10-minute HD YouTube video can use up to 150MB of your data bundle.
An older 3G phone on the 3G network would have selected an SD YouTube video, but a modern 4G smartphone on the 4G network will auto-select the HD version of the same video.
“It is still the same episode you’re watching, but more data is used to deliver the better-quality content,” Vodacom said.
Watch out for Wi-Fi Assist
One of the biggest contributors to unsuspected mobile data usage is the ability of smartphones to automatically start using mobile data when you think you are attached to Wi-Fi.
This feature is called Wi-Fi Assist on iOS and Smart Network Switch on Android, and it allows your smartphone to start using mobile data when the Wi-Fi signal is poor.
This leads you to believe you are using Wi-Fi, but your phone is actually consuming mobile data due to a poor Wi-Fi connection.
Track and manage your data usage
Vodacom said it provides a range of tools to track and manage your data usage, including SMS notifications and data balance queries you can perform via SMS, USSD or the My Vodacom app.
“The latest versions of Android and iOS will also help you monitor and manage your data usage, or you can install one of a large number of available data monitoring apps on your phone,” Vodacom said.
If there is still a discrepancy between what you have measured and what you have been billed for after monitoring your usage, you can contact your operator.