Vodacom BlackBerry Internet service excludes some WhatsApp, MXit data

BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) is one of the major selling points of BlackBerry devices in South Africa, offering its users a flat-rated data service that’s not available on any other platform locally.

At a going rate of R60 per month one might expect the service to come with some provisos, and it is typical for BIS to exclude using your BlackBerry as a modem and media streaming.

However, one BlackBerry user on a prepaid Vodacom package discovered small amounts of their airtime vanishing at irregular intervals with their statement revealing it was due to data charges.

Upon querying the anomalies, the subscriber was told the following by Vodacom customer support in a live chat.

You will be billed at R2.00 per megabyte when using one of the following if no data bundle is active on your sim card profile:

  1. Streaming (YouTube, radio or video streaming)
  2. Using the handset as a modem
  3. 3rd party applications (Mxit, WhatsApp)
  4. Using a different browser other than the Blackberry internet browser
  5. Opening e-mails larger than 4 MB
Vodacom BIS and ah-hoc data biling chat log
Vodacom BIS and ah-hoc data biling chat log

The support rep went on to explain that in the case of WhatsApp, data is included in your BIS subscription as long as you’re just chatting.

However, if you receive video in WhatsApp then it “change[s] the BlackBerry APN in order to download that video,” resulting in data charges.

Our testing suggests that the BlackBerry application for Foursquare, a popular location-based social network, incurs data charges on Vodacom BIS whenever it is used.

Vodacom was asked whether they still allow MXit and WhatsApp traffic on BIS, if and when changes were made, and if users are warned when they open email larger than 4MB.

The network operator provided the following statement in response:

This might be the case in other markets where RIM operates but this does not apply to Vodacom SA. I recommend you confirm these details with RIM.

We have not changed the BIS business rules at all.

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Vodacom BlackBerry Internet service excludes some WhatsApp, MXit data