We’ve tested tax-free websites you can visit without using mobile data in South Africa

Mobile network operators provide access to various websites of government, education, health and public interest organizations without consuming your mobile data.

MyBroadband spoke with Vodacom, MTN and Telkom regarding their zero-rated website offerings, and our testing revealed that not all sites listed were accessible without data.

The national state of disaster and interim spectrum regulations have forced mobile carriers to zero-rate a wide range of websites.

Although these obligations ended with the state of disaster, they were replaced by social obligations under their new spectrum licenses issued after the auction in March.

Jacqui O’Sullivan, head of corporate affairs at MTN, said the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) would release a full list of zero-rated sites in due course.

“We are still busy with the consultation process with Icasa to define in detail how the zero-rating process will work and we have not yet assigned any specific zero-rating websites,” she said.

“Once this is communicated and implemented, the list of zero-rated sites should be made public by Icasa.”

She also mentioned that MTN zero-rates more than 200 education, health and employment websites as part of the MTN Foundation. Open Time Initiative.

A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that it zero-rates important government websites such as the departments of health, home affairs and education through its ConnectU platform.

Vodacom’s spokesman said his tax free websites and services include free access to job portals, educational content, health and wellness information, and tax-free offers for schools, universities, and T-Vet colleges.

It also offers full zero-rated internet function supported by Wikipedia.

“At the end of June 2022, Vodacom had 774 zero-rated institutions and over 1,400 URLs.”

Telkom said it offered zero rate for various financial, corporate, government and educational institutes.

“This service allows the end consumer or customer of this company to access this specific URL or IP address for free without consuming data, while the requester of the zero access, i.e. the professional customer, is charged for data usage at that IP address by its customers,” a spokesperson said.

“Telkom has been working with ISPA (Internet Service Providers Association) and DCDT (Department of Communication and Digital Technologies) to provide tax-free access to select educational websites since March 2020.”

“Telkom currently has zero-rated data access on over 1,000 websites.”

Tax-free website testing

MyBroadband has tested some of the zero-rated websites listed by mobile network operators and found that some worked without data, some did not.

Telkom said there were more than 1,000 tax-free websites on its network, but added that it preferred not to share details directly. Details can be found on ISPA website.

“Telkom prefers not to share this list of zero-rated IP addresses widely, we prefer to allow the business customer who pays for the service to share any specific details regarding zero-rated IP addresses, directly with their specific end users or customers,” said the spokesperson.

The ISPA list is long and we were unable to access any of the sites we tested on Telkom’s network. Instead, we were directed to an “Out of Bundle” page.

On Vodacom’s network, users must first accept the terms and conditions of its ConnectU platform and are then presented with a selection of tax-free websites.

Although slow, websites like the South African Police Service and other gov.za sites were accessible without data. However, we were unable to access the Natis Online system.

Likewise, we couldn’t access job sites like Careers24 and Udemy or social grant websites like the Unemployment Insurance Fund or the South African Social Security Agency.

On the MTN network, we could access websites like the National Institute of Occupational Health and the Department of Basic Education without data. However, we were unable to access sites like Cambridge University Press South Africa and Careers24.

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About Stuart M. McFarland

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