This past week some shocking news emerged that confirmed what many cellphone owners have long suspected: Their data is mysteriously disappearing, even when they’re not using their devices to connect to the internet.To understand the sheer effrontery of what’s been happening, imagine the following scenario
You live in a small town and decide it’s time to trade in your fuel efficient, but rather boring little run-around for a much more powerful car. There are just four motor dealers in town, all with filling stations attached to them, but you opt for MT Motors because you bought your current car there and this makes the trade-in process simpler.
You take delivery of your shiny new V8 and it’s everything you expected, powerful, sporty and head turning. But, boy does it use a lot more fuel than your old car. Significantly more than you’d budgeted for, in fact. You raise this with Mike, the owner of MT Motors, and he gives you a few tips on how to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. They help a bit, but your fuel gauge is still dipping alarmingly.
You raise this with Mike and he scoffs at the idea that fuel can disappear on its own. He reminds you a V8 will use more fuel than less powerful cars and repeats the fuel saving driving tips.
When you confront Mike with the evidence, he admits it he does steal fuel, but insists all the other dealers do the same thing. When it turns out that they don’t and he’s the only one stealing back fuel from his customers.
That, in essence, is what has been happening with mobile data, as an investigation by tech website, MyBroadband.co.za, has revealed.
The MyBroadband team bought and registered new prepaid SIMs from MTN, Vodacom, Cell C, and Telkom. Each prepaid SIM was loaded with a small amount of airtime via an online banking app and placed in a Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone.
The phones were connected to the same wi-fi connection and the “mobile data” usage option in Android on all four devices was turned off.
All settings similar to Wi-Fi Assist or dynamic network switching were also disabled, as the investigators wanted to ensure the smartphones did not establish a mobile data connection during the test.
On July 11, the prepaid SIM cards were installed in the smartphones and had the following airtime balances: Vodacom R12, MTN R10, Telkom R10, Cell C R10.
MyBroadband says no user actions which would have consumed airtime or data were performed. The smartphones remained powered on with their mobile data switched off, and their wi-fi connections on, for a period of 11 days. Airtime balances were recorded regularly throughout the test.
“What happened during the test truly surprised us,” reports MyBroadband. “While the airtime balances on the Vodacom, Telkom, and Cell C SIMs remained the same throughout the test, the airtime balance on the MTN SIM steadily decreased.”