ICASA’s new End-User Service and Subscriber Charter regulations came into effect on 1 March 2019, requiring mobile operators to implement a number of changes.
Chief among these was the addition of an option to block out-of-bundle data usage.
The regulations also required that mobile operators send more detailed data depletion notifications to customers.
Each mobile operator in South Africa is required to have aligned their network to the new regulations, and all now have some form of out-of-bundle data usage blocking implemented.
To see whether all of the out-of-bundle data options were implemented correctly, we depleted data bundles on Vodacom, Cell C, MTN, and Telkom.
A SIM from each mobile operator was placed in a Nokia 5 smartphone and we purchased a data bundle for each SIM.
An airtime balance was also left on the phones to determine whether it would be depleted after the data bundle was used.
We then depleted data on each device by watching YouTube videos, monitoring the data depletion notifications for accuracy and checking the airtime balance afterwards.
The results of the test are below.
- Airtime before – R17.22
- Bundle depleted – 100MB Daily Bundle
- Airtime after – R17.22
Vodacom’s out-of-bundle data usage blocking was enabled by default, and can be changed via the USSD menu.
This out-of-bundle limit lock is enabled and set to R0.00, and can be tweaked for voice, SMS, or mobile data.
The solution worked during our test, with no airtime being used and us receiving notifications at 50%, 80%, and 95% data depletion.
Upon full depletion, we were locked out of mobile data usage and prompted to purchase another bundle or activate Data Refill.
- Airtime before – R46.00
- Bundle depleted – 75MB Daily Bundle
- Airtime after – R46.00
MTN’s out-of-bundle barring is also enabled by default, and users can access the option via the *135# USSD menu.
With this blocking enabled, we depleted our 75MB data bundle and were pleased to find that none of our airtime was used afterwards.
Our Internet connection was halted upon depletion and we were prompted to buy a new data bundle to continue browsing.
We received data depletion notifications via SMS at 50%, 80%, and 100% usage.
- Airtime before – R11.29
- Bundle depleted – 75MB Hourly Bundle
- Airtime after – R11.29
Telkom has always featured out-of-bundle data usage barring, delivering notifications and blocking Internet access until a new bundle is purchased.
The tests delivered the expected results, blocking our data usage when our bundle was depleted.
We received data depletion notifications at 50%, 80%, and full depletion via SMS.
- Airtime before – R4.77
- Bundle depleted – 65MB Daily Bundle
- Airtime after – R4.77
Cell C’s Spend Control service also worked as expected, blocking our data usage without affecting our airtime once the bundle was used up.
We received data depletion notifications at 30%, 50%, 80%, and full depletion, before our Internet access was cut off.
However, when checking the Spend Control options in Cell C before the test, we found that all options were set to “Unlimited” by default.
This means that had we not enabled Spend Control for out-of-bundle data usage, we would have automatically used up our airtime.
Cell C’s Terms and Conditions for its Spend Control service confirm this, stating that “Spend Control settings will be set to Unlimited for data, voice and SMS out-of-bundle spend and customers will need to update their spend control settings themselves”.
This appears to be in conflict with ICASA’s regulations, which require that out-of-bundle data depletion be disabled by default.
However, Cell C told MyBroadband that ICASA recently made amendments to the regulations which allowed this practice.
“On 12 February 2019, ICASA introduced additional changes to the regulations providing operators with the option to continue to provide data services to customers who have made no election on out-of-bundle usage, provided that this is done on the same conditions as in bundle usage,” Cell C said.
“Customers can still set their OOB cap on the Spend Control Service available on the Cell C App or USSD.”