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Why Your Data Is Really Disappearing

Why Your Data Is Really Disappearing

By MyBroadband on Novemberl 2018 -

Smartphone users are constantly complaining about disappearing data and that networks are stealing from them.

Besides incredibly rare instances where there are network issues and user data balances are affected, we have bad news for you - your data is not disappearing.

Mobile networks are under constant scrutiny by users and regulatory bodies, and stealing user data would be a suicidal move. MyBroadband tests have also shown that mobile data does not simply vanish off your phone.

That being said, you can be forgiven for coming to this conclusion as a modern smartphone and cellular network are designed to let you use massive amounts of data in a very short space of time.

There are two factors at play which lead users to believe that their data is disappearing - or being consumed faster than the rate they are used t0 - and these are network speeds and smartphone apps.

Network speeds

Mobile networks like Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom have drastically improved their mobile data speeds in recent years.

An Akamai report from 2013 showed that South Africa's mobile operators provided an average download speed of 0.5Mbps in Q3 of that year.

Fast forward to 2018, and extensive MyBroadband speed tests across South Africa show that average mobile download speeds average between 20Mbps-30Mbps.

In metro areas with good coverage, these speeds can easily climb up to 50Mbps-60Mbps.

This improvement means that where 10MB of data used to take well over 2 minutes to download, today it takes only 3 seconds.

The table below shows how much faster data can be used as download speeds increase.

1GB Mobile Data Usage
Data Bundle Network Download Speed Time to Depletion
1GB 1Mbps 2h 13m
1GB 2Mbps 1h 6m
1GB 5Mbps 26m 40s
1GB 10Mbps 13m 20s
1GB 15Mbps 8m 53s
1GB 20Mbps 6m 40s

Users may therefore see this as data disappearing if they look at how long their data lasts, as opposed to how much content they have consumed.

Combine the increased data download speeds with more content being available online, and this is a recipe for rapid data depletion.

This is especially true when watching full HD video or viewing large photo albums online on your phone.

Smartphone apps

The second part of the data-depletion puzzle is the apps we run on our smartphones.

Popular apps like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are geared towards users sharing and viewing photos and videos - which consume a lot of data.

This is evident when you look at the settings options of the apps, with all three of the apps featuring data-saving settings to ensure users can save mobile data.

Instagram, for example, preloads videos, so they start faster, by default.

"If you want to reduce the amount of cellular data the Instagram app uses, you can choose not to have Instagram preload videos over cellular connections," said the company.

Facebook also has similar mobile data options available to save mobile data.


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