Telkom Night Surfer data bundles – Check the fine print for the FUP

The recent experience of a Telkom Mobile customer has highlighted the need to take note of the fine print of Internet packages.

The terms and conditions of a particular Internet service may include the implementation of a Fair Usage Policy (FUP).

This policy stipulates that an ISP or mobile operator may limit a product if a usage threshold is exceeded, such as throttling download and upload speeds.

Although Internet providers are required to indicate if a FUP applies to a product, this may not be immediately obvious from the product description.

A Telkom customer complained that this was the case when he purchased a Night Surfer data bundle – which provides data access between 00:00 and 07:00 each day.

If a customer has Night Surfer data available, they automatically start consuming this data within the designated period – instead of their any anytime data or airtime.

Given the fact this data is consumed during hours of low demand, the customer did not expect any shaping or throttling of his Internet traffic.

The affected customer, however, said this was not the case.

He has two data products from Telkom – the first is a Telkom data package, which he uses in his mobile Wi-Fi router. For this package, he purchased a 100GB Night Surfer bundle via the Telkom app.

The second is a Telkom voice and data package with no Night Surfer data allocation, which he uses for his smartphone.

The customer then performed several speed tests on both his router’s SIM card and the one he uses in his smartphone.

While using his mobile router with Night Surfer data on his PC, he found that between 05:00 – 07:00 his Night Surfer data transfer rates dropped substantially – with download rates dipping to around the 2Mbps mark. Upload rates were even slower.

When he performed speed tests on the same platforms after 07:00, however, download and upload speeds were about 10-times faster.

“When testing the speed a few minutes after 07:00, the download speeds ranged from about 20.6Mbps to 31.2Mbps, using my normal Telkom data, as it was no longer Night Surfer data time,” he explained.

The table below shows the results of his tests in April.

Speed Tests
Test Time Download Speed Upload Speed Ping
MyBroadband Speed Test 05:35 1.75Mbps 1.68Mbps 26ms
06:18 1.75Mbps 1.40Mbps 25ms
07:03 23.26Mbps 14.45Mbps 23ms
Google Speed Test 05:35 2.06Mbps 1.73Mbps 48ms
06:18 2.12Mbps 1.90Mbps 40ms
07:03 24.30Mbps 13.10Mbps 51ms 05:35 2.00Mbps 1.66Mbps 30ms
06:18 1.89Mbps 1.42Mbps 27ms
07:03 31.59Mbps 16.35Mbps 26ms

Comparing with standard mobile data

To determine whether the issue was limited to Night Surfer data or was happening on the Telkom network, the customer decided to compare speeds on his Wi-Fi connection with those he would get using Telkom’s anytime data on his smartphone during the same period.

First, he measured speeds while his smartphone was using Night Surfer data on the Wi-Fi connection.

“When testing download speeds before 05:00, my download speeds ranged from about 22Mbps – 33Mbps using the MyBroadband app,” he noted.

“After 05:00 but before 07:00 using the same setup, I tested the speed and my results were about 2.1Mbps,” he said.

Following this, he disconnected from the Wi-Fi and performed tests using the standard Telkom mobile data included in his smartphone package.

The download speed was 22Mbps.

When testing both the Wi-Fi and cellular connections around the same time after 07:00 the following day, their speeds were about the same at 39Mbps.

Screenshots of the speed tests performed are below. The Wi-Fi logo indicates tests performed via the Wi-Fi router, while the signal bars show tests using mobile data on his smartphone.

MyBroadband Speed Test Results on Telkom Night Surfer

Telkom responds

MyBroadband contacted Telkom for comment, after which it investigated the issue.

It explained that the particular Night Surfer data the customer was using was part of a 100GB once-off bundle which is a promotional value-added service priced at R149.

This product is subject to an FUP, which determines that its data transfer rate may be throttled at certain times, Telkom said.

This is indicated in the product’s advertising on Telkom’s website,

Between the hours of midnight and 01:00 and once again from 05:00 to 07;00, peer-to-peer and network news transfer protocol traffic is limited to 512Kbps, while all other traffic is throttled to 2Mbps.

Between 01:00 and 05:00, all traffic is limited to 10Mbps.

The table below outlines the FUP of the 100GB Night Surfer bundle the consumer purchased.

Traffic Speed Time
P2P and NNTP / All other traffic 512Kbps / 2Mbps 00:00 – 01:00
All traffic Up to 10Mbps 01:00 – 05:00
P2P and NNTP / All other traffic 512Kbps / 2Mbps 05:00 – 07:00

FUP difficult to find in the buying process

Telkom emphasised that it does not throttle any Night Surfer data besides this specific value bolt-on bundle.

The customer said he did not check to see whether there was a FUP on the service when making the purchase on the app, as he assumed it would work the same as Telkom’s other Night Surfer data.

Before contacting MyBroadband, he said he had spoken to Telkom consultants about the problem – none of whom could indicate that his product was subject to a FUP.

Now read: Telkom accuses ICASA of assigning its spectrum to other networks

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Telkom Night Surfer data bundles – Check the fine print for the FUP