Data danger! Avoiding bill shock


It’s the middle of the month, and “ping” there’s that dreaded alert from your inbox, proudly announcing your cell phone invoice has arrived. What to expect, as you scratch your head and reluctantly click the cursor over the attachment? It opens up and you’re in shock – bill shock. By Staff Writer

One of the biggest complaints received on a monthly basis in the telecommunications industry are billing complaints, 60% of which are based on bill shock, specifically data usage.

The proof is in the “Hellopeter” pudding as the complaint statistics prove this trend does not only fall at the feet of Autopage but is in fact an industry-wide issue.

Unfortunately data consumption is a lot more complex than the consumption of normal airtime.

The latest report released by BMI-T on SA Consumer Internet Usage and Activities shows that Internet access on mobile phones or tablet has increased, in fact data consumption on all levels and segments of customers is on the rise.

“77% of all respondents who access the internet, did it as frequently as yesterday, over their mobile phones or tablets,” said the report.

The Digital Life Predictor (DLP) report surveys 800 customers living in metropolitan areas and investigates the internet usage and activities of consumers. This report then segments customers based on their usage and uptake of technology, with the DLP 1 segment demonstrating very little uptake, while the DLP 4 is comparatively very high.

In 2013, only 8% of the DLP 1 customers accessed the internet via their cell phones and in 2015 this increased to 39%.  The growth in DLP 2 increased from 70% in 2013 to 92% in 2015.

In addition to this: “Of 23% of consumers who access the internet on a computer at home, 79% had a 3G/HSDPA data contract or dongle, 23% had ADSL and only 5% fixed wireless from Neotel or iBurst.”

Feed me data

What makes understanding data consumption so difficult is the fact that devices are becoming more and more data hungry and consumers end up using data without any knowledge of doing so.

When using a smartphone, you’ll need to have a suitable tariff with a large enough data allowance to ensure you do not have to pay the out of bundle (OOB) data costs.

In South Africa, networks will charge much higher rates for OOB data than in-bundle data, so it’s important to pick a package that works for you.

Almost all of the features on a modern smartphone require data to work. Data is used for browsing the internet, sending instant messages, reading e-mails, watching YouTube videos, updating Facebook and Twitter and calling friends over Skype. Every activity consumes data at a different rate and data is therefore charged for at the volume used.  This is why data consumption is so difficult to understand.

It’s also important to note that some apps use your data in the background even if you are not using them. If the background data usage is very high you can choose to restrict the background data on your Smartphone settings.

The common perception from consumers is that networks are making data expensive, when in actual fact the real issue lies more in understanding how to manage the consumption better on the mobile device.

Take control

Eleanor Potter, consumer executive at Autopage says consumers are able to manage and monitor their own data spend on a daily basis if they are aware of the basic tools available.

“Autopage has made an easy to use tool available, where customers are not only able to educate themselves on data consumption but also make use of the calculator to understand their data consumption requirements and budget accordingly.”

Click here:  to understand data consumption.

Autopage has also run several articles in their digital magazine, Sync, explaining data consumption to their customers. This is how Autopage empowers its customers to take control of their data usage.

Top-up option

There is no limit to a data package unless you have to a top-up package. On the top-up package there are a wide range of tariffs with varying data limits. Most contracts give you around 500MB, 1GB or 2GB of data per month but there’s a large variation depending on the network you choose.

“All in all, your cell phone bill can be managed better especially when it comes to data consumption, you just need to educate yourself, download the calculator and use the tools available on your Smartphone and you could prevent bill shock at the end of the month” says Potter.

 10 tips for saving data:

  1. Include data in your voice package

Why not upgrade your package to include more data or even better add a data bundle to your voice package?

  1. Turn on WiFi

Smartphones automatically switch to connected WiFi networks when you’re in range, saving data. 

  1. Update software over WiFi

A software update could use 1.9GB of data – that’s a cost of an estimated R1900 on out of bundle data.

  1. Browse mobi sites

Mobile versions of websites tend to be simpler and use less data.

  1. Change your browser

Some mobile browsers compress data and reduce your usage? Some even strip out all images and display text only. 

  1. Keep your cache

You might be making space when you delete your cache but images need to be reloaded every time you visit the same website.

  1. Use a data monitor

By making use of a data monitor you can see which apps use the most of you data.

  1. Restrict background data

Some apps use data when not in use. It’s best to monitor the foreground and background data usage of the various apps.

  1. Turn off GPS

GPS can drain the battery and use up data. Only turn GPS on when you need it.

  1. Use data- intensive apps with caution

Video calling, online gaming, HD video or audio streaming, YouTube and Pinterest etc. are a no-go if you’re trying to save data.


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