While mobile networks are continually improving their coverage and performance, mobile data is still expensive relative to other broadband options.
Reducing data prices has become a high priority for network operators and the government, and ICASA has implemented regulations to reduce out-of-bundle charges.
Smartphone owners are using more mobile data than ever before, however.
MyBroadband therefore spoke to Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom about how customers could get the most value for their money on their respective networks.
Vodacom spokesperson Lexi Ball said the recent launch of the network’s specialised data bundles offer great value compared to standard data bundles.
“Our recently-launched Vodacom Ticket gives customers the ability to save up to 50% on data for social media, video, music, and gaming,” said Ball.
“Ticket bundles offer up to four-times the amount of data compared to standard bundles.”
“Vodacom customers can also benefit from special deals on airtime, data, and SMSs through Vodacom’s Just 4 You personalised offers,” she added.
Ball added that customers need to know their devices to save money on data.
“Customers who have recently upgraded to a new phone might notice that their data management hasn’t been tailored to suit their usage habits,” she said.
“This could be due to unchanged phone settings. Apps like Facebook and Instagram use background data to update posts and notifications.”
To limit the amount of background data used by these apps, users can navigate to data usage under device settings and activate the “restrict background data” option.
MTN said LTE handsets benefit from much better Internet speeds than previous-generation devices, but consume more data quicker.
“Many modern smartphones are configured for heavy data usage and are compliant with new generation networks such as LTE or 4G,” said MTN.
“To benefit from these speeds comes at a cost. Because of high-speed configurations, many smartphone users who use LTE handsets utilise a lot of data when accessing applications,” it said.
It also said that automatic updates for devices can quickly consume mobile data, advising users to set their smartphone to automatically update over Wi-Fi only.
“Instant messaging platforms have become the preferred mode of communication and sharing content, such as photos and video content,” added MTN.
“While this might appear to be cost effective, many users are unaware that sending videos and pictures consumes data bundles.”
Depending on the media sent, this can lead to messages over 10MB in size.
MTN also encouraged its customers to download the MyMTNApp. “By downloading the app, customers can buy a 1GB data bundle for only R49 a week,” said MTN.
Telkom stated that customers should examine the app usage on their device and determine which of their applications use the most data.
“Assess whether you really need these apps or whether they can be set to download over Wi-Fi only,” said Telkom.
The mobile operator also outlined a number of measures users can take to easily cut down on their mobile data usage.
“Disable auto-updates for apps or computer software updates, as many apps automatically update themselves in the background when the Internet connection becomes active without the user’s knowledge,” said Telkom.
“Choose the option to auto-update apps over Wi-Fi only whenever possible or conduct your updates using our Night Surfer data.”
Telkom said all of its packages offer great value for money, but the best package for an individual consumer would depend on their needs.
Cell C advised subscribers to use data monitoring applications to track their data usage per app.
“This is always the best place to start when trying to figure out how to save on data,” said Cell C.
It said that applications and phone software must be updated periodically, and while this should ideally be done over Wi-Fi, customers could also purchase a daily bundle to update applications.
“On Cell C for instance you can buy a 20MB daily bundle at only R4 to use for an urgent application update.”
“Videos use a lot of data. They are fun to watch, but consume megabytes in no time,” added Cell C.
“Setting your applications like Facebook and Instagram to not auto-play videos can save you quite a chunk of data, because even if you scroll over them, they still load in the background.”
Cell C also advised prepaid customers to switch to Cell C’s UltraBonus package to receive triple the value on every recharge.
Additionally, all customers have access to a selection of specialised and time-limited data bundles to get the most data possible depending on their needs.