Published On: Wed, Jan 11th, 2017

Ways to manage your limited, expensive mobile data bundles

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Everyone in Zimbabwe who accesses the internet on their phone (which is almost every internet user) now has to face the reality that the internet is going to be a lot more expensive now.

Following new price guidelines set by the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, operators like Econet Wireless have already adjusted their data and social media bundle line up to conform with the regulations.

The adjustment will definitely be painful for a lot of people who have to scale back on sharing videos, watching Facebook Live and enjoying Instagram. However, all this doesn’t mean we have to give up on the internet.

Techzim has listed 7 ways you can manage your mobile data spend to ensure that you make the most of those data bundles and not pretend it’s 2003.

  1. Manage your WhatsApp downloads

    This is probably the most important point for the majority of Zimbabweans who have embraced WhatsApp as their primary internet source. Unless you have a “blesser” you shouldn’t use your mobile data to download pictures and videos. There is a way to prevent the automatic downloads of video and images on WhatsApp. Go to your WhatsApp Settings; select Chat Settings; under this tab select Media auto-download; once you are there disable all media auto downloads that are enabled. This limits your WhatsApp data use to just the texts and stretches your bundles while you stay connected.

  2. Use Facebook Lite and Messenger Lite

    These two services, which are stripped down versions of both Facebook and Messenger provide access to the platforms but with all content optimised for data efficiency. This means compressed images and faster loading. The social media giant introduced them for users in countries where internet is expensive or the signal is weak. We are firmly in that pool now so it’s now worth looking up. Android users can download Facebook Lite by following this link here.

  3. Invest in an affordable home internet connection, share costs with family

    Home internet options are usually avoided because of set-up costs. However, the new mobile tariffs actually make a number of home internet services more affordable over time. Internet service providers (ISPs) like ZOL (it has a $29 -15 GB Fibre option and a $19-10 GB WiMax alternative), TelOne (check out its $25-20 GB ADSL option) and Powertel all have a number of cheaper data offers which can give you access to cost effective internet at home. If you live with people who can help you split the costs you can even try unlimited packages like TelOne’s $89 ADSL which can also give you access to VOD services like Netflix and Showmax.

  4. Use those WiFi hotspots in town

    Internet provided via public WiFi hotspots is generally affordable ranging from free (with Ts and Cs) to $1 for 1 GB. TelOne and ZOL lead the public access WiFi hotspot race but there other players like Africom and uMAX that have sprayed some parts of some cities with places where you can download content or update your apps. Hopefully, these ISPs will also expand their hotspot coverage to more towns and centres around the country.

  5. Get a mobile internet option

    If you really need internet on the go all the time, the best option is to get modems from ISPs like Africom, Powertel and ZOL that have WiFi dongles and plug-in options which will give you affordable data. It’s also supposed to be viewed as an investment, considering that these dongles can cost as much as $76.

  6. Maximise “free” and affordable internet options from places like work

    You’ve probably been doing this passively already. Every time you get to work you switch to WiFi and save on your data and depending on your employer’s policy on media access during working hours are probably scrolling through Instagram on a work connection. Now, it’s going to be a necessity, especially for things like software updates and cloud backup of files. The same approach should be adopted for places that happen to provide you with free internet access during the day.

  7. If you are on Econet, identify WiFi Zones to make the most of that extra data

    Econet’s new data packages offer double the amount of data for each bundle you purchase but it’s only accessible via Econet WiFi Zones. The service isn’t new, Techzim has written about it before. Just make sure you find WiFi zones that are easily accessible and go there to make use of the facility.

These are some of the suggestions based on what we have used and what has been shared by others on discussion forums like the Techzim WhatsApp Groups. If you have other suggestions please do share in the comments below for everyone’s benefit.