Has it fallen yet?
Data prices in South Africa have received a lot of attention in recent years. Especially given the increase in popularity gained from the #DataMustFall campaign launched on social media in 2016 by Metro FM Dj ‘Tbo Touch (Thabo Molefe).
However, with all the media attention and the hype surrounding the #DataMustFall movement, a lot of important details have been overlooked surrounding data prices in general. For example, a lot is said about South Africans having to fork out huge sums for data when compared to the rest of Africa and the world. However, few know that when comparing Fixed broadband vs mobile broadband (mobile data and DSL), South Africans actually enjoy world-class infrastructure and prices compared to that of other African countries.
In light of the “minor” detail, it does, however, place a lot of question on the:
- overall integrity of Internet Services Providers in South Africa;
- the intentions of influential parties, including the likes of DJ ‘Tbo Touch, whom himself has subsequently come out as a spokesperson for MTN and lavishing huge praise on their #DataHasFallen claim following the launch of their ‘less than ethical’ price cuts.
- the overall infrastructure and supply of broadband and internet services throughout the country.
Allow me to elaborate on each of the above-mentioned points.
1. The overall integrity of ISPs in South Africa
The integrity of ISPs operating in South Africa have long been in question, however, given the latest price comparisons are done across the world, the results became rather damning against our beloved ISPs. For one, South Africans awoke to the harsh realization that we are paying close to considerably more than most of our fellow brothers and sisters on the continent. The study was done comparing prices per gig across different countries in Africa and SA ranked 22. Simply put, South Africans are paying too much, without any explanation or any form of justification as to why.
2. The intentions of influential parties
The intentions of influential parties whom have come out publicly and questioned this have also come under subsequent scrutiny. Most notably that of #DataMustFall movement father, Thabo Molefe aka DJ “Tbo Touch. Thabo Molefe gained scores of followers on social media following his call for ISPs to reduce the cost of data and allow South Africans the freedom to grow and improve the overall standard of living. He released detailed reason as to what the advantages of this would be for all stakeholders. However, following his recent support for the ‘Questionable’ Data Has Fallen claims of MTN, as well as Molefe’s open support to the network in an article on the Citizen website, eyebrows are understandably raised.
For one, the move by MTN is welcomed by all, however, questions still remain as to why their campaign only reduced the cost of data during 00h00 and 06h00. Especially considering the fact that Thabo Molefe based much of his argument on the comfort and access it will give students to stream lectures and access resources online. Rather difficult to do at those odd hours in my opinion.
3. Infrastructure and supply of broadband and internet services throughout the country.
Without drawing too much attention to the giant pink elephant in the room, I would simply like to state that when it comes to broadband infrastructure in the country, those that would benefit most by DSL are certainly located well outside coverage areas. It should come as no surprise then that the roll-out of Fiber and 4G across the country simply ignores these dark areas. (Pun intended).
The considerable difference in cost per gig when comparing mobile data to fixed line data is however also rather damning. (R99 per GB mobile vs R3 per GB fixed line). This does bear a similar familiarity to that of prices for calls a number of years back when mobile phones became popular to the mainstream public. (R4,5 per min mobile vs R0.75 per min fixed at the time.)
How quickly that changed and lined up to today’s R0.90 per minute mobile and R0.65 per minute fixed.
So in closing, the overall cost of connectivity in South Africa leaves much room for improvement. Yet, the manner in which infrastructure and supply are currently rolled out in South Africa, one cannot help but feel a sense of familiar oppression.
Will data prices decrease? Will those less fortunate be included in infrastructure upgrades and network rollouts? Time will tell but till then…