Vodacom feels BlackBerry backlash as it throttles bandwidth for browsing and streaming above 100 MB

Telecoms

Vodacom is facing the wrath of its subscribers, following an announcement that the mobile operator would throttle the connection speeds of BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) users who exceed 100MB per month.Social networks erupted last week after the news broke; with many subscribers threatening Vodacom with the Consumer Protection Act and some saying they are considering changing operators.
Vodacom responded to criticism by emphasising that the new system is a result of its own research, which has shown that 95% of BlackBerry data usage is attributable to less than 5% of users. As a result, BIS users who exceed the 100MB threshold per month will have their connection speed reduced from 3G to 2G. Vodacom says BlackBerry Enterprise users will not be affected, and emphasises that the new measure is aimed at improving the user experience for the majority of BIS users.
Responding to a barrage of questions via Twitter, Vodacom told worried subscribers that some in those 5% were using over 150Gigs a month, making the experience terrible for the rest. The operator also said that since the data is compressed, it actually equates to two for four times more, and clarified that throttling will not affect e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook or Twitter, only browsing and streaming.
Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport says: “We need to ensure that all BlackBerry users are able to enjoy the service that they pay for. When we realised that such a small minority was using the bulk of the capacity, we decided to implement measures that will ensure that BlackBerry users will enjoy a better browsing experience overall.”
MTN also appears to be considering the same strategy. MTN SA CIO Kanagaratnam Lambotharan says: “MTN has seen a significant number of customers using the BIS platform for purposes it was not initially intended for. “MTN is currently exploring ways to minimise the negative impact this might have and will communicate to customers in due course.”

Cell C says it has no such plans in the pipeline at this stage, and while 8ta could not respond by the time of publication, it has been reported that it also has no plans to throttle BIS.

Virgin Mobile's chief marketing and strategy manager, Jonathan Newman, says in terms of the company's BlackBerry terms of use and conditions: “In the future, we may look at adding a fair use clause or other measures, should we deem it necessary. Research In Motion could not respond by the time of publication.

On Twitter, Vodacom also responded to the concerns of contract subscribers, stating: “No effect on contracts, the 'fair usage' policy was always in the contract. As we said, 95% of users won't be affected at all.”