With the majority of consumers in Africa accessing the internet via mobile devices, the issue of how to optimise data usage to effectively manage costs has become a major topic of discussion.
It is important for people to realise that when connecting to the net using SIM-based mobile devices (and not via fixed line solutions like analogue dialup, ADSL, DSL and optical fibre) to connect wirelessly, they are using mobile data.
“Mobile data must not be confused with WiFi which is a convenient way to (wirelessly) connect to a fixed line Internet solution at home, work, restaurants, shopping centres, and so on,” says Andre’ Louw, CEO of Mobile Data.
The company is an established technology service provider focused on payment facilitation and prepaid electronic value distribution.
However, when it comes to mobile data, user experience and value for money is impacted by the quality and capacity of the different generations of mobile data networks.
“These are different generations of mobile data networks with Edge being the slowest and 4G being the fastest. HSDPA was (incorrectly) referred to as 3.5G at one stage in an attempt to indicate a mobile data services that is faster and more effective than 3G. We also hear a lot about LTE which creates further confusion when we hear things like 4G LTE. To simplify – HSDPA is faster than 3G but slower than LTE which again is slower and less responsive than true 4G,” says Louw.
MobileData acknowledges that mobile is one of the fastest growing and most active areas of ICT, fuelled by the advent of mobile devices, service provision, broadband and continuous services.
Mobile data sizes may differ between the various service providers but the general principle of “save by buying bulk” applies even more so to mobile data, Louw continues.
His advice is for users to determine their average mobile data consumption per month and purchase 10% to 15% more because ‘out-of-bundle’ mobile data prices are expensive.
The growth of mobile devices and proliferation of services means that data consumption is a major consideration for users.
In terms of data consumption and percentage of use, Louw rates the following services from high to low in terms of intensive data dependency.
• Video (and movie) streaming services such as YouTube, netflix, showmax, DSTV mobile and even video calls such as Skype or Apple FaceTime
• Smartphone or tablet application and operating updates
• VOIP (voice over IP) services such as Skype (voice only), Viber, FaceTime (voice only) and WhatsApp Voice
• Photo related service such as Instagram, Snapchat, Google Photos, Apple Photos (even Facebook)
• Music streaming services such as SoundCloud, Internet Radio, Apple Music, Play Store Music, Pandora etc
• Cloud backup and storage services like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive (depending on the use)
• Social media apps such as Mixit, WhatsApp, WeChat, Twitter uses almost no data when not sending videos or photos
To avoid using up all data quickly, Louw suggests users disable automatic app updates and to enable updates over “Wi-Fi only” on smart devices. Also disable services like Wi-Fi assist on iOS devices that use mobile data where Wi-Fi signal is low as this can lead to unintended high mobile data consumption.
“Most networks now offer either an app that indicate mobile data usage or a web service that contain similar reports. There are also independent third party apps such as “My Data Manager”, “Data Usage Monitor” and others,” says Louw.
Most smartphones also have the ability to track and monitor mobile data usage per period he adds.
Consider using Wi-Fi or landline-based internet source over mobile data as mobile data is the most convenient but also the most expensive form of internet data.
Louw and the executive team at MobileData also warn users to keep an eye out for certain prepaid services that automatically convert voice ‘airtime’ to mobile data when running out of mobile data! “This is a very costly way of obtaining mobile data and may deplete your airtime in total,” Louw adds.