South Africa’s biggest mobile data hogs revealed

One of South Africa’s most data-hungry mobile subscribers used over 28TB in a year, while another consumed nearly 24TB in 11 months.

MyBroadband asked the country’s major mobile networks for the data consumption of their most demanding users in November 2023 and over the past year.

Vodacom, the country’s biggest operator, revealed its heaviest data user for November 2023 and the 12 months from December 2022 to November 2023 were Home Internet 30Mbps TopUp subscribers.

This package provides 700GB of data at speeds of up to 30 Mbps each month.

Thereafter, speeds are throttled to 4Mpbs until the maximum of 1TB of consumption is reached, and out-of-bundle consumption tariffs apply.

However, the Top Up option lets customers buy additional 30-day data bundles at R99 for 100GB or R149 for 200GB, allowing customers to continue using their package’s original speed.

The biggest data user for the year clocked 28.47TB between December 2022 and November 2023.

With an average monthly consumption of 2.37TB, they would have needed to spend at least another R1,043 per month on additional 200GB bundles, assuming they didn’t consume the data over 1TB out-of-bundle.

In November alone, Vodacom’s single biggest data customer used 2.98TB. They were also on a Vodacom Home Internet package.

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told MyBroadband that data traffic on its network increased by 45.2% between September 2022 and September 2023.

The operator attributed this to delivering greater value to its customers through value tariffs and its substantial investment in its network resilience.

The table below summarises the consumption figures and packages of Vodacom’s heaviest mobile data users in November 2023 and for the 12 months up to November 2023.

Vodacom’s biggest mobile data consumers
Plan and device  Price of package Consumption
November 2023
Home Internet 30Mbps TopUp with Alcatel HH72 router R699 x 24 months 2.98TB
1TB Home Internet L TopUp (SIM-only) R749 x 36 months 1.88TB
1TB Home Internet L TopUp with Alcatel HH72 router R799 x 36 months 1.81TB
December 2022 to November 2023
Home Internet 30Mbps TopUp with Alcatel HH72 router R699 x 24 months 28.47TB
Home Internet 30Mbps TopUp with Alcatel HH72 router R699 x 36 months 13.26TB
Prepaid Home Internet Depends on bundle
100GB anytime + 100GB night owl data: R349
12.76TB

Telkom had one customer who consumed more than Vodacom’s heaviest user in November 2023 — a 2TB LTE subscriber who user 3.61TB of data.

The network’s other biggest consumers used 2.69TB and 2.47TB, respectively. Both these customers were also on the 2TB LTE package.

All these customers would have needed to use TopUp bundles or consumed data out of bundle.

In the first 11 months of the year, Telkom’s two biggest mobile data customers used around 23–24TB. The operator did not specify which packages these customers were using.

Telkom’s overall year-on-year mobile data traffic increased 17.8% when comparing 2023 to 2022.

The operator said the major metros in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape had the highest traffic. However, the highest traffic growth was in the more rural provinces of the Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and North West.

“This shows a shift in traffic growth and more connectivity in rural settings, as more people access the Internet and mobile services in these areas,” Telkom said.

Telkom attributed the trend to its deployment of 800MHz spectrum and roaming cost reduction initiatives.

The lower-frequency spectrum has larger range than high-frequency bands, making it better suited for sparsely populated areas with a lower concentration of towers.

The table below summarises the consumption figures of Telkom’s hungriest mobile data users in November 2023 and for the first 11 months of 2023.

Telkom’s biggest mobile data consumers
Plan and device  Price of package Consumption
November 2023
2TB LTE R699 x 12/24/36 months 3.61TB
2TB LTE 2.69TB
2TB LTE 2.47TB
January to November 2023
Not specified Unknown 23.74TB
Not specified Unknown 23.41TB
Not specified Unknown 21.53TB

Cell C also shared the data consumption of its biggest users.

“Our top 3 heaviest data users in November 2023 consumed just over or just under 1TB each, utilising our Home Connecta 1TB product within our broadband portfolio,” Cell C told MyBroadband.

Cell C said it had seen a notable increase in traffic due to its compelling data offers on monthly packages and data bundles.

One product portfolio that performed particularly well was prepaid Home Connecta Flexi, which grew 22.6% over last year.

MTN would not share specific information on its top data consumers as it regarded this as commercially sensitive information.

However, it did provide feedback on general data traffic trends on its network.

“Data traffic on our network continues to grow year on year, and this is strongly driven by growth in data from streaming applications, namely Facebook, TikTok, Youtube, Netflix and local streaming services,” said MTN South Africa sustainability and corporate affairs chief Jacqui O’Sullivan.

Like Vodacom and Cell C, the operator’s heaviest data users were typically those on its home fixed wireless access products.

“These products offer great value with the largest offering monthly usage thresholds up to 1.5TB,” O’Sullivan said.

She added that MTN continued to see growth in smartphone and fixed-4G and fixed-5G access usage.


Now read: MTN launches “Super Data” prepaid bundles — including 200GB for R399

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South Africa’s biggest mobile data hogs revealed