South Africans who want to download torrents without being throttled have several mobile data packages to choose from.
Internet service providers (ISPs), including mobile network operators, often impose Fair Usage Policies (FUPs) which significantly throttle the download speeds of torrents.
The main reason for this is the impact that torrent traffic can have on network performance.
Many bandwidth-intensive services such as video streaming or software updating systems are optimised not to drag your entire connection to a halt.
Gaming content delivery applications like Steam also cache their content locally, which is more cost-efficient for ISPs.
By contrast, the BitTorrent protocol excels at making use of an Internet connection’s maximum bandwidth by opening multiple connections to people hosting content on the network.
Much of the content downloaded from seeders is also hosted internationally, which can be more expensive for ISPs.
If many users were to max out their connections with torrent traffic on a regular basis, it could therefore create issues for overall network performance, and increase costs for ISPs.
While this is more manageable with the capacity of fibre, mobile networks cannot afford this type of congestion, particularly given radio frequency spectrum constraints in South Africa.
Most mobile network users are not limited to a certain speed, but rather by the best possible performance the network can deliver at any given time and place.
Since the common capped mobile data products available in South Africa would be too expensive to use for downloading large files from torrent sites, these services are rarely throttled.
For the rare packages where mobile network operators do offer uncapped data, they have to throttle or otherwise manage torrent downloads, or risk degraded performance across their customer base.
Prime examples of this are the uncapped 4G and 5G packages offered by Rain.
The company recently confirmed to MyBroadband that it was throttling torrents on all its packages, including its top-end 5G Premium product.
Telkom’s uncapped SmartBroadband Wireless package is another example of an LTE solution with limited maximum speeds and throttling of torrents.
After 150GB of usage, download speeds are dropped to 4Mbps for the next 50GB of consumption, and 2Mbps for the remaining usage.
There is also a 50GB cap specifically for bandwidth-intensive protocols such as BitTorrent traffic.
Once this is threshold is reached, the maximum torrent download speed is dropped down to 128kbps for the rest of the month.
The best options
The only exception we found for an uncapped mobile data package with no torrent throttling was Supersonic’s fixed-LTE solution, which was originally launched as a Black Friday offer last year.
There are no specific bandwidth restrictions in Supersonic’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), but the operator notes that it reserves the right to impose limits if someone’s downloading activity interferes with the performance of the network.
Considering that uncapped mobile data services tend to be subject to strict fair usage limits, the next best option is a mobile package with a large allocation of data and no fair usage policy on torrents.
Fortunately, a number of such data packages were launched over the last year including products from Cell C, MTN, and Telkom — with each offering 1TB of anytime data.
The table below shows the best mobile packages available in South Africa for downloading torrents.
|Best mobile packages for torrents|
|Package||Network||Data allocation||Monthly price|
|Cell C Home Connecta Flexi Prepaid 1TB||Cell C (roaming on MTN)||1TB anytime||R899|
|Telkom SmartBroadband Wireless 1TB||Telkom||1TB anytime||R999|
|Supersonic Uncapped Fixed-LTE||MTN||Uncapped||R999|
|MyMTN Home Wi-Fi 1TB||MTN||1TB||R1,059|