MTN South Africa has announced that as of midnight on 25 September 2018, it will stop providing free Twitter to its millions of subscribers. The Pan-Afrikan mobile services provider has been running the free Twitter service in South Africa for the past 4 years and recently started introducing a fair usage policy.

According to MTN's statistics, 13 million of its subscribers used the free Twitter service during August 2018 and used up 1,9 petabytes of data during that same period.

“Free Twitter started out as a 90-day promotion in May 2014 and over time, it has become part of the landscape of social media in South Africa. MTN first gave people the free platform to experience Twitter, which then had a relatively small local following. At the time, the whole of South Africa only had 5,5 million Twitter users. To date, MTN has more than double that number on our network alone,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive for Corporate Affairs at MTN South Africa.

Social media bundles

Across Afrika, telecommunications companies, MTN included, have over the years resorted to selling their subscribers specially packaged "social media bundles." These are, generally speaking, data bundles that are specially priced and can only be used for a specific set of social media and messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and others. However, as can be expected, these present several issues when it comes to Net Neutrality as they essentially make it that more difficult, especially for Afrikan, developed applications of a similar nature to gain traction.

To this effect, MTN is also continuing with the trend of social media bundles in South Africa. As part of scrapping the free Twitter service, MTN is also announced changes to the pricing and sizing of its WhatsApp and Twitter bundles.

"From Monday 1 October MTN’s Twitter and WhatsApp bundles will also be amended. The weekly WhatsApp bundle rate increases from 100MB (for R5) to 250MB for R10. This change is to cater for the increased demand MTN is seeing for larger bundles while still delivering extra value to WhatsApp users. The daily offer, meanwhile, increases from R1 to R2 but moves from 20MB to 50MB. MTN’s Twitter bundles will also change in size and pricing. The current daily bundle will move from R1 for 20MB to R5 for 100MB and the weekly rate will change from 100MB for R5 to 500MB for R20."

Like most, if not all, telecommunications companies across the continent, MTN says it has observed an overall usage trend towards video and images. This, the company says, is what also led to it deciding that the free Twitter service is no longer feasible to the cost and demand it places on the network.

“Twitter was originally intended as a quick and snappy way to stay connected with the world – within a 140 character (now 280) limit. It has since evolved into a platform that is video and image intensive, making it no longer feasible to offer this as a value-added service to our customers. While we understand Twitter fans will be disappointed to see the end of this free service, MTN is committed to delivering other exciting and affordable ways to connect our customers to the digital platforms they love,” concluded O’Sullivan.