Why cellular calls are a waste of money

Mobile operators across South Africa have reflected a steady decline in revenue from traditional cellular calls, balanced by a steady increase in data usage.

The launch of offerings like Rain’s data-only packages further cements the insatiable demand for data, even in developing countries such as South Africa.

There is a steady migration towards WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and other data-based communication applications too, but many South Africans still insist on making standard voice calls.

In my circle of friends, family, and colleagues, traditional voice calls are becoming increasingly rare occurrences as people opt for cheaper modes of communication.

You needn’t sacrifice the traditional voice experience to save money, however, as many apps offer data-based voice calls with impressive quality and features.

The age of data calling

It makes no sense to pay R1.50 per minute for a voice call when you have access to a high-speed Wi-Fi connection in your home, and the same is true even for mobile data connections.

An experiment conducted by MyBroadband showed that placing a WhatsApp voice call over an LTE connection uses far less airtime than placing a cellular call, even when using out-of-bundle data.

In fact, a WhatsApp voice call using out-of-bundle data on Vodacom costs less than a third of a traditional call per minute, meaning that even if you factor in the equivalent data consumption of the recipient, it still works out cheaper than a standard call.

Of course, placing a WhatsApp voice call when you have an active data bundle or are connected to Wi-Fi makes the cost almost negligible.

Using a Rain SIM to make a voice call over LTE will only cost you R0.02 per minute – meaning that you could talk for well over an hour for the price of a one-minute cellular call.

Call quality and latency on platforms like WhatsApp have improved dramatically in recent years, to the point where the experience is almost identical to traditional calls unless your Internet connection is poor.

WhatsApp also offers expanded functionality, such as video calling, group calls, and more.

The points listed above alone should be enough reason to switch to WhatsApp calling permanently, but there are some situations in which people still prefer to make standard calls.

Old habits

While my colleagues and I prefer communicating over WhatsApp, there are situations where standard calls would be more appropriate.

It would seem odd if your bank, insurance company, or other businesses called you over WhatsApp, and you would think twice before calling a prospective employer about a job opening over a messaging application.

The experience is functionally identical though, and there are many applications which could be used in lieu of cellular calls for professional situations – Skype being a prime example.

Of course, this would not be an issue if Wi-Fi calling was offered by our mobile operators for free like it is by AT&T and Verizon in the United States.

The Wi-Fi calling options offered by Vodacom, Cell C, and Telkom charge users standard rates when calling over a Wi-Fi connection, meaning there is little point to using the feature except when travelling.

The solution for South Africans is to migrate to data-based calling applications instead of cellular calls and get used to conducting business over cheaper mediums which function exactly the same as traditional calling.

I have resorted to using WhatsApp calling almost exclusively and while it may seem odd in certain situations, it will save you a lot of money and deliver the same experience.

Now read: South Africa’s networks are ready and waiting for 5G spectrum

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Why cellular calls are a waste of money