Data rules are fall­ing: what you need to know

Now you can ex­tend the life­span of your data bun­dle – but make sure you know the fine print


IMAG­INE this: you fill up your car’s petrol tank then drive spar­ingly over the next few weeks so that 30 days ­later you still have a quar­ter of a tank. Then the fill­ing sta­tion owner pitches up and drains the re­main­ing fuel from your tank.

Sounds ridicu­lous – but un­til ­re­cently that’s ex­actly what was hap­pen­ing to your cell­phone data. You’d buy a bun­dle for 30 days and af­ter that any un­used data would van­ish into thin air.

The in­jus­tice of this use-it-or-lose-it pol­icy has had con­sumers’ backs up for years. But now, in a ma­jor vic­tory for ­or­di­nary South Africans, all this has changed. From now on any left­over data at the end of the month will roll over.

The de­ci­sion is the re­sult of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into con­sumer com­plaints launched in 2016 by the In­de­pen­dent

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity of South ­Africa (Icasa). De­spite mo­bile ser­vice providers fight­ing tooth and nail for three years, new data reg­u­la­tions have fi­nally be­come a re­al­ity.

In prac­ti­cal terms, this means un­used data, in­clud­ing data bought in April, can’t sim­ply dis­ap­pear overnight.

But un­used data won’t be avail­able for­ever.

“Data typ­i­cally rolls over only for one month at a time, mean­ing that data from March can roll over to April, but won’t then roll over to May,” says Arthur Gold­stuck, founder of World Wide Worx, which un­rav­els trends in in­ter­net and mo­bile us­age in Africa.

But there are no pre­scrip­tions on how providers will im­ple­ment the new reg­u­la­tions, and they dif­fer from com­pany to com­pany.

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