HARARE - Mobile data in South Africa is more expensive than in regional economic rivals Nigeria and Egypt and compared to regional neighbours Zambia and Malawi, new data showed on Tuesday, adding weight to growing calls for the country’s telecom groups such as Vodacom, Cell C and MTN to lower mobile broadband tariffs under the #datamustfall campaign.
The #datamustfall campaign has been raging on social media platforms and the Independent Communications South Africa recently intervened by ordering the SA telecom groups to adjust their data offerings by allowing data roll-over and data transfer.
The stats by Cable – a UK analytics and research company – show South Africa’s mobile data costs per 1GB way ahead of prices in Nigeria and Egypt. South Africa and the two African countries have the biggest three economies on the continent.
Data released after a study by Cable says the average mobile data tariff for South Africa stands at R101.91 per GB or 7.19 in US Dollar times. This is in contrast to average mobile internet charges of US$1.49 and US$2.22 per 1 GB in Egypt and Nigeria respectively.
However, mobile telecom consumers have continued to complain about being asked to purchase more data for roll-over to be effected by some networks.
“While Vodacom has backed down from charging consumers for data rollover, there's a requirement for the purchase of the same size bundle to enable the rollover, which prejudices low-income consumers who are not always be able to afford bundles of the same size. #DataMustFall,” tweeted Koketso Moeti this week.
Others consumers and experts on telecom say data is still expensive in South Africa and this has been buttressed by the release of average data pricing stats comparing tariffs in South Africa and other key markets in Africa and across the world.
Cell C has been responding to its network users on Twitter, saying the option for roll over is available for users, highlighting that measures regarding data transfer are meant to protect subscribers.
“You have the option to have your data rollover. There are no sinister intentions regarding the transfer just ensuring that our customers are protected,” said a response by Cell C on Twitter this week.
This is despite stats showing that more than 58 percent of South Africans access the internet using mobile devices. In other neighboring countries such as Zimbabwe, mobile broadband accounts for nearly all of internet connectivity.
According to the survey by Cable, mobile broadband is also cheaper in some southern African countries. The survey report shows data costs in Zambia at $2.25 per 1GB and at $3.59 in Malawi. Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea however have the most expensive mobile data in Africa and the world, with data costs per 1GB standing at $75 and $65 respectively.
Cheryl Brown, an independent consultant on communications and development said recently that most internet users in Africa find mobile devices being the most reliable gadgets to access the internet.
“Using a mobile device may be the most reliable way for them to access the internet, for example in Tanzania, where fixed line internet access is unreliable,” notes Brown.