Consumer Education Key to Saving Data, says ISPA

South Africa’s historically uncompetitive ICT (Information and Communications Technology) landscape has come a long way since there were two cellular networks, one fixed line network and a whole lot of consumer frustration with bandwidth limitations and the exorbitant cost of data.

That’s according to the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA) which has spent two decades fighting for a more equitable IT and telecoms playing field in the country’s court rooms and boardrooms.

Consumer-focused regulatory frameworks like the End-User and Subscriber Service Charter (EUSSC) Regulations are examples of moves in the right direction that are helping to end some of the more predatory practices employed by SA’s mobile networks and others that kept the price of data artificially high.

“Mobile and fixed line consumers are today paying less for data than they ever have. However, together South Africans can further drive down the cost of mobile data, in particular, through information sharing,” says Andre van der Walt, ISPA chair.

The industry is moving in the right direction and now it’s up to consumers to play their part by becoming familiar with mobile data saving. With this in mind, ISPA provides the following handy hints and tips to consumers interested in avoiding data bill shock:

Firstly and foremost, under new ICASA regulations users of capped services must be allowed to rollover unused data. While the rollover period is at the discretion of the provider, data users cannot be charged out-of-bundle rates unless they have consented. Make sure your service provider does not automatically switch you to a different price structure when your data bundle expires.

Secondly, there are many more common-sense ways to save mobile data that do not require regulatory intervention.

  • Download your mobile network’s usage app, opt in to receive SMS data usage updates and download special data-saving apps to remain on top of data usage.
  • Get to grips with Wi-Fi which is now increasingly provided free in public places like restaurants, gyms and airports and is particularly useful for streaming and downloading large files and updates.
  • Become familiar with off-peak, uncapped and similar times of the day when data usage may be more affordable than usual. Instead of choosing not to download software updates, you’ll be able to postpone large updates for relatively cheaper times of the day.
  • Try out a few different Operating Systems. Some of these are notorious for behind-the-scenes updates that seem to deliver little but hefty data charges at the end of the month.
  • Close apps when you’re not using them as social media apps, in particular, use a lot of data when they’re running in the background. Related to this tip, go to Settings to double-check what apps you have installed, what’s running and – ultimately – what can be safely deleted in pursuit of data saving.

Finally, perhaps the best advice ISPA can give to data-sensitive South Africans is for them to continue being as vocal on this issue as they are on other issues of the day. “Voice and data are now basic services that enable us to apply for jobs and care for our families. The cost of these services therefore directly impacts millions of human beings and should therefore be as low as practically possible,” concluded Mr Van Der Walt.

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