#DataMustFall but at what cost?

By: Andrea Brown
Sep 16, 2016

Social media has been abuzz this past week with the trending topic #datamustfall trending nationally.

This comes after a myriad of complaints from South Africans with regards to data costs and usage which was further exacerbated by radio personality and media mogul T-bo Touch. Radio personality and businessman Tbo Touch this week waged war against local networks when he initiated the social media campaign. Tbo Touch‚ who has given networks 30 days to make a change‚ said he will meet with the chairman of Icasa soon and has plans to create an alternative network if prices are not dropped.

The hashtag ‘Data Must Fall’ trended on Twitter this week since the campaign was launched on Thursday.

According to a recent study, South Africans spend almost 25 percent of their salary on internet usage. This is well above the international telecommunication union’s guideline of 5 percent. A research conducted by the IRR last year revealed that South Africans are paying a lot of money for slow connection speeds.

Telecommunications analyst Kerwin Lebone says cellular phone data costs in South Africa will not be cheaper anytime soon. Lebone, who works for the Institute of Race Relations, agrees with the recent public outcry over exorbitant cellular phone data costs. Lebone says we pay more for data than first world countries. He says the public outcry over exorbitant data costs and the launch of the #DataMustFall campaign is spot on — we are paying too much. He said that said that compared with countries in the Middle East‚ Europe‚ Asia and the Americas‚ data in South Africa is the most expensive.

“If we measure developed countries, such as in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US), we pay ten times more on average monthly on data that the UK spends and eight times more than in the US. The first time we unearthed that information that’s what we thought. We should be on par with the rest of the world. We are absolutely with the public on this.

“What’s keeping prices up is uncompetitive behaviour by Telkom. Most of the high data charges are because service providers have to ‘rent’ spectrum from Telkom‚ which virtually owns all communications infrastructure in the country.

“In August of this year‚ Telkom threatened to sue Icasa (the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) after the latter planned an auction of the spectrum so other service providers could offer affordable services to consumers‚” he said.

In 2015 the broadband download speed in South Africa was 7.0 megabits per second (Mbps). On average in 2015 South Africans spent $19 per Mbps on broadband monthly.

Here is how some of the other nations in the study fared:

Afrihost have seen the opportunity to cash in on the hype around the campaign. "There’s an awesome movement on Twitter, it’s called #DataMustFall – and we’re with them!", a statement declares.

From 15 to 23 September, Afrihost is running a competition where you can stand a chance to win some mobile data. Afrihost is giving away 5GB of prepaid mobile data worth R395, and is valid for 12 months,  every hour between 12:00 and 16:00, Monday – Friday. That’s 4 winners per day!

The competition is for Twitter only. You need to tweet @Afrihost and mention #datamustfall in your message. You’ll go into a draw to WIN the data. All you’ll need is an MTN contract or prepaid SIM and you’re good to go.

Lebone says all these issues will be discussed in Parliament this coming week.

"Next week, the Portfolio Committee on Communications will be holding discussions and they have invited members of the public to come discuss better access to broadband by the public."