The mobile networks that throttle torrent downloads in South Africa

Rain is the only mobile network in South Africa that throttles torrents across all its packages, while Vodacom and Cell C don’t implement torrent throttling on any of their mobile products.

This is according to feedback MyBroadband recently received from the country’s major mobile operators.

Torrents can be a big headache for Internet service providers (ISPs), as the BitTorrent protocol used to download them is designed to consume all of the available bandwidth of your connection.

While this is easier to manage for fixed-line providers with plenty of capacity, it can be a problem for mobile networks that have limited network capacity — in the form of radio frequency spectrum — shared by many customers.

Since BitTorrent downloads tend to involve large files, most mobile customers would not opt to use their expensive mobile data for it.

Rain is the exception as it is known for offering affordable prices on uncapped data products, and if too many subscribers who are connected to the same cellular tower choose to maximise their connections at the same time it can cause congestion.

The network told MyBroadband that torrent downloads were regulate in all of its products, with its premium 5G service currently limited the least.

According to Rain, this was done to ensure all customers received the best experience on the network.

“We believe in playing fair when it comes to data usage. Large torrent downloads impact other users with real-time traffic demands such as streaming,” Rain said.

“Most of Rain’s customers do not use torrents but rather stream their content.”

In contrast to this, Cell C does not throttle torrents, nor does it throttle other data protocols on its network.

This may be of interest to those looking to get Cell C’s affordable Home Connecta Flexi bundles, which offer up to 1TB of prepaid data for R899.

MyBroadband’s early tests of these packages showed excellent speeds, potentially positioning them as a competitor to Rain’s 4G offerings.

The country’s biggest mobile network operator, Vodacom, told MyBroadband it also does not throttle torrent downloads on any of its mobile data packages.

This would be logical given that Vodacom does not offer any uncapped mobile data packages, but has rather stuck to high data caps for its Home Wi-Fi options.

The operator does implement overall speed limits on those packages, which can be either 10Mbps or 20Mbps, depending on the package size.

MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said that they also do not throttle torrents specifically, with the only exception being for Sky plan customers who are throttled once they reach a certain cap.

MTN Sky Black provides uncapped data at R1,999 per month, with an FUP of 100GB. Once this has been consumed, speeds are dropped to 384kbps.

Telkom also told MyBroadband the majority of its mobile products do not have restrictions on BitTorrent or other peer-to-peer downloading.

However, Telkom highlighted a few of its products where speed restrictions were put in place to “protect the network and curb network abuse”.

These include the following packages:

  • FreeMe plans – Only on FreeMe Unlimited and FreeMe Unlimited Share.
  • SmartBroadband Wireless – Only Unlimited plans including the SmartBroadband Unlimited, SmartBroadband Wireless Unlimited, and its legacy SmartBroadband Uncapped Wireless products.
  • SmartInternet – Overall speed limitation on SmartInternet Unlimited only.
  • Data bundles – A few data bundles, including the Unlimited On-Network bundles and 100GB Night Surfer bundle have P2P restrictions.

“Aside from the above products and services, all other tariffs and bundles across all the respective post-paid and prepaid portfolios are in no way throttled or limited for P2P or streaming,” Telkom said.

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The mobile networks that throttle torrent downloads in South Africa