Where Has My Airtime Gone?

With the growing data usage demanded by social media, cellular phone apps, and the more esoteric usage by apps such as the iTunes Store or Google Play Store, it’s no wonder most customers wonder, “ Where has all my airtime gone? ” If you find yourself asking this question on a weekly, if not daily basis, then Hippo.co.za has done you a favour by combining the main reasons your cellular data is diminished.

mobile data

In a Radio 702 interview with the MTN Chief Customer Experience Officer, Eddie Moyes, and the Vodacom Head of Technology Innovation, Jannie Van Zyl, a few reasons came to the fore. Firstly, according to Moyes, an overwhelmingly large number of complainants are using LTE (Long Term Evolution) handsets, more commonly known as 4G handsets. The network makeup for LTE is ultra-fast and consumes copious amounts of data.

As Van Zyl puts it:

“The media that you consume, the audio and the video, and especially something like YouTube, automatically adjusts to the speed of your cellphone. So if your cellphone is running at a higher speed, and today we’re running on LTE at an average speed of 30 megabits per second […] YouTube will start serving the high quality video for you, so the data consumption goes up substantially.”

mobile apps

YouTube and other apps are considered direct-use apps unlike the high number of other apps which may be updating and using data in the background. All such updates should be controlled manually in order to conserve data.

Wireless Application Service Providers (WASPs), partner companies which make use of a primary network’s content and services, also expend data. Everlytic has found that “personal information, including a customer’s cellphone number, is gathered by digital marketers of WASPs in order to build an audience for their brand.” However, WASPs tend to manipulate users to subscribe to their services “by means of a number of audience growth tactics such as website subscription forms, competitions, pop-up forms and account registration that requires a subscriber to enter their cellphone number.”

Luckily, service providers recently released the USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) strings which send instructions to providers to cancel any and all WASPs you may be subscribed to. To check whether you’re signed up with any WASP, or to unsubscribe, you can dial

  • *1331*1# if you are a Cell C user
  • *141*5# if you are a MTN user
  • or SMS “STOP ALL” to 30333 if you are a Vodacom user