Johannesburg - South Africa’s second largest mobile network MTN has responded to complaints of disappearing data from customers.
Customers have taken to social media and websites such as HelloPeter.com to complain of buying data that then disappears shortly thereafter.
“Data charges have gone up over 400% and most people, including me, did not even use the said data,” one anonymous user wrote into News24.
Other Fin24 users have also complained of exorbitant data charges.
Fin24 reached out to MTN for comment on certain complaints and the company has since responded with a press statement titled 'mystery of depleting data decoded'.
In the press statement, MTN largely pins the blame for ‘depleting data’ on users’ phone settings.
“Are you frustrated by data that depletes faster? Is your smartphone emptying your wallet and you can’t account for depleted data bundles which you don’t recall using?
“Despair no more, the depleting data could be explained by the settings you have on your shiny new handset,” MTN said in its statement.
The mobile network has explained how data can be quickly sapped via various means.
Firstly, MTN said that if customers own LTE compliant smartphones, then these devices could consume more data.
LTE offers faster internet speeds than 3G networks.
“To benefit from these speeds comes at a cost, because of high speed configuration, many smartphone users who use LTE compatible handsets utilise a lot of data when accessing applications,” said MTN in its response.
“In other words, the faster the speeds, the more data bundles will be utilised,” said MTN.
However, major mobile networks in South Africa do not have extensive LTE networks yet because the country has yet to migrate to digital television - a process that will free up spectrum.
Also, in MTN’s half year results released earlier this month, it was highlighted how the company is expanding its 3G network faster than its LTE network in South Africa.
“During the six months, we added 267 new 2G sites and 1 939 largely co-located 3G sites and 1 891 LTE sites,” said MTN in its half-year results announcement.
A new smartphone
New smartphone users in South Africa may also not be fully aware of the data charges their phones incur, said MTN.
“The transition from a dumb phone to feature phone or smartphone has impact on data usage,” said MTN.
The company explained that smartphones can range from no or limited data functionality to full data functionality which impacts usage.
“Some of these new smartphone(s) now also allow apps to function / work in the background regardless if you are using them directly or not.
“As long as app is open / running on the device they will continued using data. Earlier smartphone and smartphone software versions did not allow this. Customers need to be aware of their handset capabilities and subsequent data usage impact,” said MTN.
Smartphone use is growing in South Africa, MTN said.
Research from the likes of local technology research firm World Wide Worx backs up this assertion.
According data released earlier this year by the managing director of World Wide Worx, Arthur Goldstuck, smartphone usage in SA is expected to top 23.6 million users this year, up from 19 million in 2014.
This is largely thanks to cheaper smartphones flooding the market.
MTN then went on to list other possible reasons for customers’ data disappearing.
These include continuous automatic updates from applications such as Facebook and Instagram that run in the background, social networks such as Facebook having upgraded to high definition resolution for the likes of photos, large multi-gigabyte software updates such as downloads for Microsoft Windows 10, data intensive websites and photo and video sharing.
Finally, the company also blamed increased out-of-bundle charges for possibly depleting data.