Many smartphone users have been complaining of poor network connectivity during load-shedding this year.
Mobile networks have acknowledged that load-shedding can have an adverse effect on the functionality of their base stations, with operators telling MyBroadband that they “face an incredible challenge” when load-shedding takes place.
This can pose problems for users who purchase limited-time data bundles and are unable to make full use of their data due to networks going down.
For example, if someone purchases a daily data bundle while at work to use once they get home and experience connection problems once they arrive due to load-shedding, they may not be able to make full use of the data bundle.
Once its validity period has elapsed, the data is gone – regardless of the reason you did not use it.
MyBroadband asked South Africa’s mobile networks if they had plans in place to deal with this potential problem or if they issued refunds to affected customers.
Cell C said its network is affected by load-shedding just like all other business in South Africa, and advised customers to plan around scheduled power outages.
“Cell C makes every effort to ensure uptime on its network, however, as with all other businesses, we are in some cases affected by load-shedding,” Cell C told MyBroadband.
“Customers are advised to check their load-shedding schedules and plan accordingly, but even if there is no power, it does not necessarily mean that they cannot use their data.”
With regards to daily bundles in particular, Cell C said there should be enough time to use the data when the power is up.
“Additionally, daily bundles last for 24 hours, which should provide ample time for customers to make use of it outside of load-shedding periods.”
A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that it dealt with all refund requests according to its guidelines.
“Vodacom has guidelines in place for network disputes and they are dealt with on a case by case basis,” the company said.
MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan told MyBroadband that it is impossible to determine whether unused data claims could be attributed to load-shedding.
“Refunds to customers are generally made as a consequence of an internal MTN fault that resulted in a service not being available,” O’Sullivan said.
“While MTN is fortunately the network least affected by the current spate of load-shedding, due to its extensive investment in battery and generator back-ups, the company would simply not have the means to verify a customer’s claims of unused data due to load-shedding.”
O’Sullivan added that a similar argument could be made for DStv customers claiming refunds due to load-shedding.
“It could not be expected for DStv to compensate customers for hours of TV not watched, as a consequence of load-shedding,” she said.
“These are complex and often frustrating times for South Africans.”
MyBroadband reached out to Telkom for feedback but the company did not respond by the time of publication.