Data remains costly In Africa but free internet may not come free

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, addresses a gathering during the Internet.org Summit in New Delhi
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, addresses a gathering during the Internet.org Summit in New Delhi (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

The greatest barrier to extending internet use in most African countries, is the cost of data.

The greatest barrier to extending internet use in South Africa, and indeed in most African countries, is the cost of data. In South Africa one gigabyte of data on mobile networks—the only means of accessing the internet for most—is R149 (pre-paid) or about $11. This means that for millions of people in the country data is a luxury.

So when mobile operators start giving some of this valuable commodity for free it warrants attention. From July, the country’s third-largest mobile services provider Cell C started offering some services such as Facebook and Wikipedia for free without paying for the data. In the telecoms industry this is called zero-rating.

This is not the only example of zero-rating in South Africa. In September, the country’s second largest operator MTN announced a deal for its on-demand internet video service FrontRow. MTN now allows streaming of videos without data charges. This is not insignificant, as an hour-long television programme can use over 300 megabytes of data. Read more

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