Cellular Data

There are some things that I would like to post about just to get them off my chest. They are not strictly in line with the theme of Relax with Dax, but they may be of interest to some people and I would appreciate any comments.

A friend of mine just received a R18 000 bill from Autopage/MTN for her data card. That is a MASSIVE amount of money, especially considering that her bill rarely exceeds R1500. She has no idea how over a 5 day period she used that much data, we suspect a virus of some sorts.

My gripe is this: Why did neither MTN nor Autopage either cut her off or warn her as soon as her traffic exceeded her average usage? MTN and Autopage will tell you that they can’t do that, nor can they provide you with a breakdown of the traffic which was used. So the question is, why can’t (or rather don’t) they offer either of these services?

How many people do you know are PC/Mac techies? Very few I would imagine. I am am PC techie, and I know how easy it is for a PC to be infected with a virus or for windows updates to happily chew up your data. The average Joe doesn’t know this stuff, there is nothing they can do to prevent it. Even diligently keeping their anti virus up to date will not be 100% effective.

I work for a satellite telephone service provider and we can set limits on an account (data over satellite works the same way). A customer can request that they are cut off at a certain amount or that each month they get a certain amount. So why can’t MTN and Vodacom offer this service? Is it because they don’t want to? Is it because they like the fact that people don’t have the skill to prevent their PC using too much data and so have to pay for it?

Which brings me to the next point. Have you worked out the price of data on the cellular networks? Telkom ADSL costs about R75 per additional GB (outside your bundle). That’s 7.5c per MB. The cellular networks charge R1.20 per MB. That’s 16 times more or 1600% more (maybe check my math on that, it sounds too crazy). Both Vodacom and MTN charge the same, why is the competition commission not looking into this?

In my humble opinion, the cellular networks are taking us for one helluva ride. I’m not just talking about data prices, cell calls are stupidly expensive. How can these companies justify the profits they make? You can’t tell me this is not an oligopoly. I feel embarrassed every time I have to use my cell phone.


  1. Janine Chapman August 18, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Hi Dax,

    I have a Vodacom 3G service. They do send you an sms to tell you once you have exceeded 50% of your data bundle.It pops up on your screen like an sms. Then they keep you updated. You can also log into your account on the internet to check your usage.

    I have my blonde moments thats the only reason I know about this service.

    Hope this is some help to others.


  2. Dax August 18, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Hi Janine

    Thanks for your feedback. The sms is useful if you are using the card on your PC, but if it is accessed by several PCs through a router you would not receive any notification.

    If they can keep track of your usage, why can’t they limit it?

  3. Mark August 23, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Normally big companies give you the run around when you try and get your 18K back. This leads to good content and scripts for movies like “Falling Down”. Don’t get mad, get even. http://www.hellopeter.co.za or.com sorts them right out, quickly.

  4. Dax August 25, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Hi Mark

    Yes, Hello Peter has helped me in the past and my friend will certainly include that in her campaign to inform the world of these abusive policies.