How much data Vodacom smartphone customers use
The average Vodacom smartphone customer consumes around 2.2GB of data per month, the company’s latest interim results have revealed.
Like other mobile networks in South Africa, Vodacom saw data traffic surge during the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Following the hard lockdown that started on 26 March 2020, people spent more time working, communicating, and getting entertainment online.
Despite lockdown restrictions being significantly less stringent this year, Vodacom’s network saw sustained growth in mobile traffic.
The operator said data traffic increased 13.1% during the period, accelerating to 17.9% in the second quarter. Quarter-on-quarter, data traffic was up 12.6%.
Vodacom data customers jumped to 22.8 million, an increase of 1.1 million from the previous period.
Customers with smart devices (smartphones and tablets) increased by 11.1% to 24.5 million, while 4G devices surged by 21.5% to 17.2 million.
Vodacom said the average usage per smart device increased by 7.3% to 2.2GB per month.
The increased data usage comes after Vodacom slashed data prices on its network for two years running.
That followed an agreement that the operator and rival MTN had reached with the Competition Commission to significantly reduce mobile data prices in South Africa.
In April 2020, Vodacom dropped the price of a 1GB prepaid monthly data bundle by 34% — from R149 to R99 — in addition to slashing prices on several other bundles.
It followed up one year later with another reduction of 14% to R85 per 1GB bundle. Other bundles now offer up to 33% more data at the same price.
Vodacom and MTN implemented these price cuts with the understanding that government would soon release sought-after and long-delayed radio frequency spectrum.
Without saying it outright, operators like Vodacom and MTN indicated that the price cuts would only be sustainable if they receive additional spectrum.
Spectrum is the raw network capacity cellular networks use to wirelessly communicate between devices and towers.
While a proposed spectrum auction has been delayed again, Vodacom and its competitors have benefitted from the temporary spectrum allocated as an emergency measure during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While Icasa planned to suspend access to that spectrum at the end of this month, it recently announced mobile networks would be able to reapply.
It will then be valid for seven months or three months after the end of South Africa’s national state of disaster, whichever comes first.
This will allow operators who feel they’ve missed out, like Rain, to try and get their hands on some of the temporary spectrum they didn’t apply for the first time round.
Vodacom and other mobile network operators have repeatedly emphasised that making mobile data more affordable will depend on the availability of extra radio frequency spectrum for South Africa’s telecommunications providers.
Following delays due to a court challenge from Telkom and MTN, Icasa aims to auction off some of the high-demand frequency spectrum in March 2022.
By then, the government plans to fully migrate all the country’s provinces from analogue television broadcasting to digital, which will open up valuable space in lower frequency bands.
The additional spectrum will make it possible for mobile network operators to improve their network quality and capacity.
However, these plans are under threat due to a court challenge from E-tv, which claims that many South Africans will be unable to access digital broadcasts when all analogue transmitters are switched off.
It, therefore, remains to be seen whether Icasa can auction off the low-frequency spectrum occupied by old analogue TV broadcasts together with unoccupied higher frequency bands next year.
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