25/07/2017 12:03 SAST | Updated 25/07/2017 12:03 SAST

MTN Promises To Fix 'Disappearing Airtime' Issue Within Next 30 Days

MTN said it was not aware that other mobile networks were zero-rating LTE.


South African mobile network MTN said they were not aware that other mobile networks were charging zero-rating LTE, and promised to fix the disappearing data and airtime phenomenon affecting MTN users. This was according to a article published on Monday.

The article by MyBroadband investigated the disappearing data and airtime situation and found MTN charges LTE tariff fees, even with your mobile data option switched off. In the experiment, MTN's data was the only one that was used, while Cell C, Vodacom, and Telkom Mobile remained at the amount put it.

MyBroadband presented its findings to MTN, which acknowledged that the data depletion was genuine. It reportedly said MTN was charging for LTE.

The company also reportedly said it would implement a solution in the near future.

"As a matter of priority, we are going to adjust our tariffs and align our data charging in LTE with our competitors. This will be implemented within the next 30 days," said MTN.

The data test

"MTN would like to note that even though data was switched off, the smart devices used in the test consumed data when connecting to the LTE network, this is how LTE works," MyBroadband quoted MTN.

In the test conducted by MyBroadband, small amount of airtime was loaded on to SIM cards of all four cellphone networks in South Africa.

The airtime was loaded on July 11 with no data option enabled and all actions deactivated. All activities that reduced airtime were disabled for a period of 11 days.

  • Vodacom -- R12.00
  • MTN -- R10.00
  • Telkom -- R10.00
  • Cell C -- R10.00

After 11 days the airtime on the MTN sim disappeared despite 0 bytes used and a daily messages were sent from MTN warning that it was using out-of-bundle data.

The balances for each prepaid SIM on 21 July were:

  • Vodacom -- R12.00
  • MTN -- R4.60
  • Telkom -- R10.00
  • Cell C -- R10.00

"We can confirm that the depletion was due to internet data traffic being channelled directly to the handset via LTE technology," MTN said.

They further added that "LTE is an always-connected technology, and as a result of LTE standards, any compatible device connecting to the LTE network receives an IP address."

High data prices led to public outrage in the past, generating hashtags such as #DataMustFall, #VodacomIsTrash and #MTNisTrash earlier in 2017.

MTN said that they were not aware that their competitors are zero-rated LTE and that they would align their data charges to that of their competitors, which is to be implemented in the next 30 days. The high rate data issue has been affecting South African mobile users, and MTN users have been the most vocal, with their #MTNIsTrash hashtag on Twitter.

Meanwhile, News24 reported the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) will hold an inquiry to try and reduce the country's high data costs. The inquiry would be completed by March 2018.