Disappearing data in South Africa is real — but only from one operator

Disappearing data tests by MyBroadband Insights revealed that mobile data on Cell C disappeared, even when mobile data is switched off, and there was no activity on the phone.

MyBroadband used Nokia 5 smartphones that run a default version of Android for the disappearing data experiment.

All the Nokia 5 smartphones were reset to their factory defaults and were updated over Wi-Fi to ensure no minor updates happened during the test.

All future updates were then disabled, and data usage for all processes was restricted through the Android settings.

MyBroadband purchased new Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom SIM cards, which we checked for WASP services before starting the tests.

A data bundle was then loaded on each SIM, the phones were plugged in, and they were connected to a fast Wi-Fi connection.

We switched off mobile data on all the devices to ensure they could not consume mobile data during the testing period.

No action was performed on the phones during the one-week testing period, except checking the balance using a USSD code.

Disappearing data test results

The disappearing data tests revealed that only one mobile operator — Cell C — suffered from disappearing data.

Over the one-week testing period, 0.46MB of mobile data was used on the Cell C SIM.

Interestingly, the smartphone with the Cell C SIM did not report any mobile data use over this period.

The table below provides an overview of the results of MyBroadband’s disappearing data tests.

Disappearing Data Test
Operator Start (4 August) 5 August 6 August 10 August End (11 August)
Cell C 80MB 79.98MB 79.93MB 79.68MB 79.56MB
Vodacom 50MB 50MB 50MB 50MB 50MB
MTN 350MB 350MB 350MB 350MB 350MB
Telkom 150MB 150MB 150MB 150MB 150MB

Cell C responds

Cell C chief technology officer Schalk Visser confirmed that they recorded “valid chargeable usage on our data network”.

“This could be due to various conditions including, that Android smartphones are able to use 4G mobile data even when the ‘mobile data’ setting is turned off,” he said.

Questioned as to why Cell C was the only network where data disappeared, Visser said they could not comment on behalf of other networks or the behaviour of specific devices.

“Although we cannot replicate MyBB protocols exactly, we are still in the process of conducting our own testing,” said Visser.

Now read: Disappearing airtime on Cell C discovered

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Disappearing data in South Africa is real — but only from one operator