File picture: Boxer Ngwenya/Independent Media

Johannesburg - Calls for “free” data will raise data prices, the Free Market Foundation (FMF) warned on Saturday.
 
"#DataMustFall campaigners are guilty of cherry-picking to make a point that is set to undermine one of post-apartheid’s few success stories. Worldwide data prices have fallen considerably and look set to continue doing so. It is a fantastic good news story – especially for the poor," the FMF said in a statement. 
 
"Yes, in India, a small regional provider, for a limited period of time, offered a loss-leader special deal at R11 per gig. Comparing this isolated cheapest option to South Africa’s most expensive mainstream gig is disingenuous at best. The cheapest recent South African price was R8 per gig," the FMF said.  
 
There were too many variables to compare prices across countries accurately or honestly. Prices varied depending on whether providers were regional or national, whether packages were once-off or contract, whether data was in or out of bundle. 
 
But that was not all. Prices were influenced by country size, population density, coverage, technology, speed, geography, regulations, subsidies, licensing fees, spectrum availability, quality, and level of development.

In South Africa, load shedding and crime added to the prices charged consumers, as did restrictive spectrum allocation. In addition, the government required mobile network operators to provide free or heavily-discounted data to schools, hospitals, clinics, universities, and further education and training (FET) colleges.

"There is no such thing as a free lunch – someone has to pay for 'free' data. That someone is you, the paying consumer. Be warned: Calls for 'free' data will raise your data prices," the FMF said.