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Where Does Your Expired Data Go? Is this A Form of Theft?


Where Does Your Expired Data Go? Is this A Form of Theft?

Imagine withdrawing $100 bond notes from the bank and keeping it in an envelope at home. A month later, you go to the same bank and they refuses to accept your money for a transaction saying your banknotes are expired. How would you feel?

About 15 years ago in the early days of the mobile network industry, this exact system was used by mobile phone providers. Whenever you bought talk time/data bundles, it would expire after a labelled number of days. For example You may buy a 250MB or 500MB bundle and after a period of time it expires. But if you still have some data left, then why does it “disappear” after the time of expiry?

Ever been frustrated that data you bought from your telecommunications provider expired before you had a chance to use it? Zimbabwe’s operators are entitled to do this, one mobile network executive argued that data bundles are a service not a commodity.

In other words, customers are buying access to data services for a certain period of time, up to a certain amount of data, rather than that amount of data itself. As a result, not using it means losing it.

Data is sold in packages of different sizes at different costs per megabyte and credited to you as a conversion of airtime, and the validity data validity data range from 1 day to 30 days.

If you don’t use your data within 30 days, then the seller ghappses it and possibly sells it again. Not using your data pushes up the effective cost of the package. You pay less per megabyte for bigger bundles but the principles of compulsory use may eliminate advantage.

The debate on whether telecoms should really expire data bundles or not has been going on for a while now, especially in Africa.

According to a n executive who spoke to Techunzipped ,  if we allow mobile data or airtime not to expire obviously customers are going to on to that credit forever, and from a service provider point of view makes it more difficult to plan and to decide how much to invest.

He claimed that they buy upstream bandwidth via undersea fibre cables per month and thus setting an expiry date on data bundle allows them to properly plan how much traffic they will need to carry in a specific month. A claim we cannot verify.

Unfortunately for all of us, the Potraz has been sleeping at the wheel concerning the matter of data bundles and airtime. All Internet providers sell data bundles with an expiry date condition.

Why is this practice allowed? Why should we be forced to consume our Internet data bundles within a fixed number of days? Why should we be made to go into overdrive watching videos and downloading things a day before the bundle expires? Why should we lose Gigabytes and Gigabytes of data and money to Internet providers? When we asked Potraz for a comment on the issue we did not get a reply at the time of writing.The same with mobile networks operates , they did not issue a response.

One thing that Telecom operators will not jump up and about shouting is that you can only extend your current bundle’s expiry date if you buy a bundle of the same price or one with a higher price.

As consumers we view Data bundles as money. We pay good money for Internet data and we deserve to consume it whenever, wherever and however we want. It a fair exchange of value for value. The cell phone operators advised us to buy only what we know we will use sounds more sensible than it is, like being told not to swim where there might be crocodiles.

Every month, service providers make millions from unused data bundles and they would like to maintain to maintain their bank accounts like that. Expired data bundles are pure profits for them because you paid for a service that they don’t need to deliver.

Pardon has been a technology enthusiast his entire life and has spent the better part of last decades in information technology and security, and he writes with an aim to remove some of the "mysticism" from the cyber world. He’s the Editor at Techunzipped. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him playing with the latest gadgets or the latest Game.

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