Concern as high cost of data in SA brought to light

In the race to provide citizens with the cheapest data deals, South Africa is trailing far behind most of its Brics counterparts.

Tariffic‚ a company that helps businesses and individuals reduce their cellphone bills‚ released its quarterly data package tracker yesterday.

Its findings reveal that among the Brics nations – South Africa, Brazil‚ Russia‚ India and China – as well as Kenya and Australia, South Africa has the second-most expensive data on average‚ superseded only by Brazil.

The study compared “dataonly” packages from leading mobile network companies in the other countries with those in South Africa. All figures were rebased against the Cost of Living Index.

One GB of data is most expensive in Brazil‚ followed by South Africa‚ China‚ India‚ Kenya‚ Australia and finally Russia.

This means South African prices were on average 134% more expensive than costs in Russia‚ the country with the lowest prices in the surveyed group.

Brazil was the most expensive in all three categories.

Tariffic CEO Antony Seeff says a significant contributor to high data bills in South Africa is out-of-bundle spend.

As new technology develops‚ websites and applications are also eating more data than they had previously.

“Your one GB of data won’t get you as far as it would have a few years ago‚ and you would expect the prices to come down accordingly so that users will‚ at a minimum‚ continue getting the same value for the same price.

“However‚ data prices haven’t come down to nearly the same degree over the years‚” Seeff said.

According to research by Research ICT Africa‚ lower income users spend about 20% of their wages on a relatively low amounts of data – around one GB.

Said Seeff: “How can one be expected to pay for accommodation‚ transport‚ food‚ and other living expenses when you are forced to pay 20% of your income on data?”

Communications expert Arthur Goldstuck said the cost of prepaid data in South Africa was prohibitively expensive‚ from R1 to R2 per megabyte.

“The regulator (the Independent Communications Authority of SA) should step in and mandate a ceiling price of 20c to 40c per MB if the operators won’t do it themselves,” he said.

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