Rain still the lone wolf in uncapped mobile data

Rain is still the only mobile network operator in South Africa to offer uncapped mobile data without limiting fair usage thresholds.

While Rain’s offerings are subject to some limitations — streaming quality, for instance — its uncapped packages will allow you to keep using data at reasonable speeds, regardless of how much you have already used.

Although operators like MTN and Telkom offer uncapped fixed wireless access as an alternative to a home fibre connection, they do not have an uncapped mobile data plan intended for smartphones.

The features and limitations of Rain’s uncapped mobile packages are summarised in the table at the end of this article.

MyBroadband reached out to South Africa’s other operators to find out why they don’t offer truly uncapped mobile data plans.

MTN’s executive for corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan, said that the mobile operator offers uncapped data plans to post-paid customers — but these are subject to a fair usage policy (FUP).

She explained that MTN’s Sky Black plan is the only mobile plan it offers with uncapped data.

However, this is subject to a hefty FUP — after reaching a 100GB threshold, speeds are reduced to 384Kbps.

“The FUP is used to protect the integrity of our network,” O’Sullivan explained.

“As with all acceptable use policies, if the customer uses more than a certain, predetermined ‘fair’ amount of data in a given timeframe, their line speed could slow down during peak times, in order to allow other users to access the network fairly.”

Vodacom said its ability to offer genuinely uncapped data plans is dependent on radio frequency spectrum.

“In a nutshell, it is about spectrum availability. Given that spectrum is a finite resource, unlimited propositions have a negative impact on customer experience in general if demand is not matched by network capacity,” a spokesperson told MyBroadband.

“Following the recent spectrum auction, Vodacom has begun to prepare its network to enable the use of this new spectrum. Once deployed, Vodacom customers will experience even faster download speeds and will be exposed to new product and pricing options.”

Vodacom plans to launch a range of fixed wireless access uncapped services on the 5G spectrum currently within its network. Its largest data allocation is currently on its Red VIP 100GB plan.

Telkom pointed MyBroadband to its FreeMe Unlimited plan, which is available for R1,189 per month.

“Our FreeMe Unlimited at R1189 includes unlimited data at 30GB per month, and thereafter the data is offered at a reduced speed. Data access is unlimited and not blocked and continues at a reduced speed,” a spokesperson said.

The FUP specifies that once the 30GB threshold is reached, speeds are dropped to 128Kbps.

Cell C’s chief commercial officer, Simo Mkhize, explained that heavy data consumption doesn’t usually happen while its customers are mobile. He also suggested that heavy data users look to its fibre products to meet their needs.

“We have learned that whilst customers may prize mobility, heavy data consumption happens mainly at home and at work,” he said.

“Our extensive range of fibre products for home and business use have been designed for this purpose, and offer truly unlimited, uncapped data.”

Mkhize also said that most mobile data products advertised to offer uncapped data are, in essence, simply very large data bundles with a FUP applied.

Large and uncapped mobile data packages
Network Package Limitations Price
Rain Unlimited 4G for any device Uncapped but limited to 10Mbps

Streaming quality restricted to 360p

VPNs and torrents throttled

Unlimited 4G for phones Streaming limited to 360p

No hotspotting

VPNs and torrents throttled

Unlimited off-peak for any device Uncapped data from 11PM to 6PM

Best effort service (no speed limitations)

Peak data charged at R50 per GB

VPNs and torrents throttled

MTN Sky Black 100GB FUP, after which speeds are reduced to 384 kbps R1,999
Telkom FreeMe Unlimited 30GB FUP, after which speeds are reduced to 128 kbps R1,189

Now read: South Africans hate their cellular network provider

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Rain still the lone wolf in uncapped mobile data