2021 marks five years in SA since the #DataMustFall campaign which saw the President order the Communications Ministry to bring down the cost of mobile data by 50%. Still, however, the country remains ranked at number 136 for the price of a gigabyte of mobile data*.
“Almost a third of South African households own a car while nearly 90% have access to a cellphone** and yet the petrol price per litre is a more familiar topic of conversation than the price per gigabyte of mobile data,” says Anton Potgieter, co-founder of NoPBX™, a locally developed, smartphone-based cloud PBX system.
Potgieter explains the pandemic was a boon for mobile network operators who should have used the increased data demand to reduce the cost of mobile data to the hard-pressed consumer experiencing a national emergency. Instead, one operator watched its mobile data revenue climb to R6.37 billion while record numbers of SMEs were liquidated.
“SMEs are under strain and telecoms is a large part of budgets. While prices to access the mobile web are dropping globally, it’s not happening fast enough here. When it comes to connectivity, too many SMEs are being forced to ‘make a plan’. That’s no way to run an economy if you want to make a proper dent in poverty. Our priorities are wrong when a thousand-rand fuel tank gets more publicity than a thousand-rand data bill,” he says.
NoPBX has activated over 1,200 new PBX-over-GSM switchboards since its commercial launch in October 2020. Potgieter puts the runaway popularity of the solution partly down to the fact that this smartphone-based cloud PBX system requires no mobile data to work.
“When even direct government intervention fails to deliver a level playing field characteried by free competition and fair prices, smart business decisions by SMEs can have an immediate positive result. An example of a clever tactical business decision that will enable a lean outfit is simply to forgo mobile data-based solutions,” Potgieter says.
He says this is easier than most SMEs think and provides the following hints:
- Unlike VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) switchboards, NoPBX uses existing mobile voice networks to make outgoing business calls using one’s usual cellphone voice call connection. No data required.
- Some essential apps and websites are zero-rated, especially those related to banking and education. If you’re a small business just starting out, you can also use free Wi-Fi hotspots or zero-rated sites while out of the office instead of mobile data.
- When out and about, remember to check if you’re connected to Wi-Fi or mobile. Being connected to mobile when Wi-Fi is available could end up being a costly mistake, even though WiFi uses more phone battery.
- If you must purchase mobile data, don’t buy it on the fly. Plan properly and work out your mobile data needs in advance so that daily data purchasing is replaced by selecting more affordable 7-day or monthly mobile data options.
*Data from 6 148 mobile data plans at the end of 2020 in 230 countries were gathered and analysed by Cable.co.uk.
** Stats SA Household Survey