We were more than a little dubious when we learned, via a student informer, that young South Africans had figured out a way to send one another WhatsApp messages even after their data had run out.
But after our own experiments we can confirm that there is indeed a method to send text messages over one mobile network – MTN – without any data or a WhatsApp-specific bundle. The method is simple: just turn off the data connection, compose and send a WhatsApp, then turn the data connection back on, and keep toggling it on and off and the message is delivered. In practice, however, the mechanism is unreliable and excruciatingly slow in order to, as our editor put it, “save not a lot. Especially when you can hack MTN to get a 250MB WhatsApp bundle for R10.50 – or just pay R2 a day for a smaller 50MB bundle.
The good news is that MTN is aware that this is possible, and seems to have no plans to close what it says is not, in fact, a loophole. In certain instances, MTN applies a zero rating policy for low data volumes within each hour of the day,” MTN’s corporate affairs executive Jacqui O’Sullivan said in response to question from Business Insider South Africa.
“Further detail of this policy is competitor sensitive and therefore confidential. MTN has systems in place to account for all data volume, and we confirm that this is not a bug or loophole. The “MTN Bundle Bonanza 2.0” packs hit shelves in September 2019, and our testing suggests it possible that the bug is specific to these packages. The SIM cost 49 cents.
Our tests showed it is possible to send WhatsApp messages through a mobile network without paying – but also that you can get WhatsApp data cheap.
For R10.50 you can buy a new MTN SIM, and activate 20MB of general-use data and 250MB of WhatApp-only data. That’s a lot of messages, if you stick to text only, and the next week you can buy a new SIM and repeat the process.