In the world of ever-increasing data usage, smartphones are probably the first device that comes to mind.  One of Africa’s largest carriers, Vodacom (mostly owned by Vodafone) is starting to feel it.  Thanks to the popularity of BlackBerry in Africa, and the mobile browser of the latest BlackBerry 7 smartphones, data usage is becoming an issue for the carrier.

Since the introduction of the newer BlackBerry 6 and 7 smartphones, increased data usage and the downloading of large files has been seen.

Jannie van Zyl, data lead at Vodacom wants to be clear that Vodacom is not throlling data speeds for BlackBerry users, which is something that other carriers have done.  The issue of data throttling is a sensitive issue to a lot of customers, as can be seen from the situations of some American carriers.

Jannie states, “As a matter of fact we’ve got capacity on our links. If you run very big pipes you often get upstream bottlenecks, and we have seen that once or twice over the last couple of months. Our link to RIM currently is, I think, 2.3 or 2.5 gigabits. It’s a massive link and it’s not running at full capacity.”

“The fact that you get a worry-free internet experience in terms of not having to manage your data consumption and your cap and so on is what drove BlackBerry.”

Jannie van Zyl goes on to say that, “Unfortunately, the proposition [has] changed a lot over the years. When we launched BIS originally, together with the other operators worldwide, it was really an email service – you could do your email, you could do your instant messaging, BBM came along and it was still all about messaging and it all worked very well.”

RIM evolved the BlackBerry platform to include a modern browser like other smartphones platforms, therefore leading to higher data usage.

Vodacom is known for offering a flat rate for BlackBerry usage, which is regarded as the reason for them being the largest BIS  operator in the world.  However, due to the increase in data usage, Vodacom is now considering limiting the service for those who download large files, while the vast majority who use their BlackBerry smartphones for browsing, email, and general not be affected.  This is considered a fair-use policy that many other carriers have implemented.  The alternative is to charge for each additional byte of data over some fixed amount.

With BIS still being very efficient with its data usage, it is unsurprising that many carriers find this attractive.  With the latest BlackBerry smartphones and especially the newer BlackBerry 10 smartphones, the data usage will undoubtedly increase.