Many consumers in Mzansi and all over the World have reported that their airtime and mobile data are disappearing, and that it is not in line with what they use.

In September 2015, hundreds of South African cellular subscribers contacted Talk Radio 702 to complain about a phenomenon dubbed “data leakage”.


Users complained that data was being deducted from their mobile accounts, even though they had not used the Internet.

Other users complained that their airtime had disappeared, despite the fact they did not use their mobile phone at all.

MyBroadband asked Vodacom, MTN, and Cell C what the possible causes of disappearing airtime are, and what users can do about it.

The causes of disappearing airtime

Vodacom said the reality is that airtime isn’t disappearing, and that subscribers are using much more data.

“The main reason we’re using so much more data than a year ago is that our smartphones are becoming more entrenched in our daily activities,” said Vodacom’s Byron Kennedy.

MTN also said airtime and data does not disappear, and that faster networks, better smartphones, and bandwidth-hungry applications are usually to blame.

Here are some of the causes of airtime and data use that may be unexpectedly affecting users:

  • Subscription to a WASP service, which charges you daily.
  • Out-of-bundle data rates can quickly deplete airtime.
  • Automatic software updates can consume large amounts of data.
  • High-definition content on YouTube and social media platforms consume large amounts of data.
  • Uncapped data bundles from MTN must be activated before use.
  • New smartphones and faster networks mean data is used quicker.
  • Viruses can access your Internet connection and consume data.

What you can do to prevent disappearing airtime and data

Here are some of the steps users can take to mitigate unexpected data and airtime use:

  • Unsubscribe from all WASPs if you suspect undesired billing. See how to unsubscribe from all WASPs here.
  • Switch off your data connection when you’re not using it. Apps often use data in the background.
  • Avoid out-of-bundle charges by purchasing data bundles.
  • Turn off automatic updates over mobile data connections – use fixed-line connectivity via Wi-Fi for updating apps and software.
  • Limit music and movie streaming using a mobile data connection.
  • Ensure you activate uncapped daily data bundles before using the Internet.
  • Check how much data apps use and adjust usage where possible to avoid using a mobile data connection.
  • Install an anti-virus program, such as Norton or Symantec, on your device to avoid viruses.
  • Pay attention to mobile data SMS notifications.
  • Android and iOS have built-in features to track data consumption, accessed via the Settings menu.
  • Prevent bill shock by setting a limit on the amount of out-of-bundle data you can use. Vodacom’s call limit lock and MTN’s usage limit feature let you do this.


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