The Best Mobile Broadband Deals in South Africa 2015

Source

The price of mobile broadband in South Africa is coming down, slowly but surely. Compared to ADSL it’s usually a more affordable option, anyway. There’s no lines, no installation fees, no monthly line rental costs, and it’s a lot more portable as you can use mobile broadband with smartphones, USB modems, laptops, iPads, etc. And if the data is loaded on to a SIM card, which it usually is at least in my experience, you can switch and put it in different devices on the trot. Mobile broadband is the way forward.

Yes, people who have actually managed to get a line put in by Telkom as long as they live in the right area, can go to some select ISPs and get 1 GB of data at usually low cost. Some even provide data for free for a period, or just as a once off. And they can have multiple ISPs. But there are a lot of other costs, that I mentioned above, that go with it. And like I said, Telkom may not be bothered to come and put in a line in the first place. You stand a better chance if you run a business, preferably nearer, or in the CBD, or if you live in a newer area. If you live in an older area, especially on the urban fringe, then your chances are not good. Telkom also doesn’t like putting lines in because they often get stolen by cable thieves, looking to sell the metals, like copper, inside. Telkom then has WiMax – but the last time I checked, they weren’t really bothering with any new installations, although they will reportedly maintain existing ones.

So apart from that old dinosaur known as dial up, there’s mobile broadband and it’s becoming more and more popular as a cheaper and less hassle alternative to ADSL. There are five main mobile carriers that cater to mobile broadband demands in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, 8ta, and most recently Telkom Mobile – the last two are both owned by Telkom, but are indeed separate networks.

I recently went around looking for the best mobile broadband deals that can be had. Note that I'm focusing on 3G and 4G here, and not any Wi-Fi services.

Vodacom

Vodacom, owned by British company Vodafone, is ranked the number one cellular network in South Africa, – and why wouldn’t they be? They’ve been around longest, since the mid 1990’s. They have over a 50% market share with more than 23 million subscribers.

They have however traditionally been one of the most expensive when it comes to offering mobile broadband deals. Their prepaid data bundles have been quite expensive for some time – unchanged for several years, in fact – with only a recent price drop. 2GB – the entry level; probably the absolute minimum anyone should be looking to get – goes for R249. But Vodacom does have prepaid data bundles that go all the way up to 20 GB, which currently sells for R999 (it was R3620!). This is something I haven't really seen from most competitors, who usually stop at about 5 GB or less on a once-off prepaid data bundle deal.

Vodacom’s contract offers are quite enticing, often offering double the amount of data advertised, but half of it is only valid during Night Owl hours, which is between 12 AM and 5 AM. This means if you happen to be the type who burns the candle at both ends (and you can pass a credit check), it may just suit you. Each contract deal has a R202 SIM and connection fee.

Vodacom Internet Daily Prepaid Data Bundles

Data Amount
Price
Validity
20 MB
R5
up to 24 hours/1 day
60 MB
R6
up to 24 hours/1 day
100 MB
R10
up to 24 hours/1 day
250 MB
R20
up to 24 hours/1 day
All data expires at midnight leading into the next day, regardless of time of activation.

Vodacom Once Off Monthly Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
15 MB
R9
30 days
30 MB
R12
30 days
100 MB
R29
30 days
250 MB
R59
30 days
500 MB
R99
30 days
1 GB
R149
30 days
2 GB
R249
30 days
3 GB
R299
30 days
5 GB
R399
30 days
10 GB
R599
30 days
20 GB
R999
30 days

Vodacom Internet Starter Packs

Data amount
Price
Validity
1.2 GB (100 MB p/m)
R149 (R299 with modem)
30 days x 12
2.4GB (200 MB p/m)
R399 (includes modem)
30 days x 12

Vodacom Long Term Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
12 GB (1 GB p/m)
R899
30 days x 12
24 GB (2 GB p/m)
R1399
30 days x 12

Vodacom 12 Month Contract Deals

Data Amount
Price
Validity
500 MB p/m
R55 p/m
30 days x 12
1 GB p/m
R85 p/m
30 days x 12
2 GB p/m
R149 p/m
30 days x 12
3 GB p/m
R189 p/m
30 days x 12
5 GB p/m
R289 p/m
30 days x 12
10 GB p/m
R549 p/m
30 days x 12
20 GB p/m
R1099 p/m
30 days x 12

Vodacom 24 Month Contract Deals

Data amount
Price
Validity
500 MB (+ 500 MB Night Owl*) p/m
R45 p/m**
30 days x 24
1 GB (+ 1 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R75 p/m**
30 days x 24
2 GB (+ 2 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R109 p/m**
30 days x 24
3 GB (+ 3 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R169 p/m**
30 days x 24
5 GB (+ 5 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R259 p/m**
30 days x 24
10 GB (+ 10 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R499**
30 days x 24
20 GB (+ 20 GB Night Owl*) p/m
R999**
30 days x 24
*Off peak hours on the Vodacom network are between 12 AM and 5 AM. **Promotional price. All deals require a R202 sim and connection fee.
Source

MTN

So now we go over to MTN. This is the second cellular network to crop up in South Africa, having got its start in 1994.

MTN’s prepaid data bundles have been expensive for some time, but in more recent times they have gone through a bit of a change, and have become much more affordable. MTN tend to round off their data bundles. If you buy 500 MB worth of data, then you get exactly 500 MB, when the true amount is 512 MB. So it could be argued that this is a bit unethical as they are effectively reselling that data to someone else.

MTN doesn’t have many worthwhile deals as far as prepaid data goes. They tend to favour contracts, much like Vodacom does, and 24 month ones at that, which seems to have become the industry standard. But they aren’t even as good as Vodacom’s contract deals, where you effectively get double the data albeit on Night Owl. Contracts also aren’t ideal if you don’t want to be hit with OOB (out of bundle) rates and end up with a very large bill at the end of the month.

MTN used to offer uncapped data plans, but not anymore from 1 June, 2013 going forward. In place of the lite and pro deals, you have regular contract deals. The prices remain the same, and the old fair use policy amount is still valid, but there is no uncapped option anymore. But you do get extra data with these deals which is probably as much if not more than you would have gotten on uncapped anyway. And your speeds aren't shaped either.

MTN 1 Hour Prepaid Data Bundles (Rush Hour)

Data Amount
Price
Validity
10 MB
R1,50
1 hour
50 MB
R5
1 hour
100 MB
R10
1 hour

MTN Daily Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
20 MB
R3
up to 24 hours/1 day
50 MB
R7
up to 24 hours/1 day
100 MB
R12
up to 24 hours/1 day
uncapped
R40
up to 24 hours/1 day
Data expires at 23:59 PM regardless of time of activation.

MTN Weekly Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
50 MB
R10
1 Week
100 MB
R15
1 Week
300 MB
R35
1 Week
500 MB
R45
1 Week
1 GB
R65
1 Week

MTN Fortnightly Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
1 GB
R89
2 Weeks

MTN Monthly Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
5 MB
R4
30 Days
20 MB
R12
30 Days
50 MB
R25
30 Days
100 MB
R35
30 Days
300 MB
R85
30 Days
500 MB
R105
30 Days
1 GB
R160
30 Days
2 GB
R260
30 Days
3 GB
R330
30 Days
5 GB
R430
30 Days
10 GB
R650
30 Days
20 GB
R1250
30 Days

MTN Night Express Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
100 MB
R10
30 days
300 MB
R25
30 days
500 MB
R35
30 days
1 GB
R59
30 days
2 GB
R109
30 days
5 GB
R139
30 days
10 GB
R209
30 days
20 GB
R359
30 days
Night express bundles valid from 00:00 to 06:00 am

MTN Long Term Prepaid Data Bundles (6 months)

Data amount
Price
Validity
100 MB p/m
R99
30 days x 6
300 MB p/m
R259
30 days x 6
500 MB p/m
R339
30 days x 6
1 GB p/m
R579
30 days x 6
2 GB p/m
R929
30 days x 6

MTN Monthly Prepaid Data Bundles (12 months)

Data amount
Price
Validity
100 MB p/m
R159
30 days x 12
300 MB p/m
R399
30 days x 12
500 MB p/m
R529
30 days x 12
1 GB p/m
R899
30 days x 12
2 GB p/m
R1399
30 days x 12

MTN 24 Month Contract Data Deals

Data amount
Price
Validity
500 MB p/m
R51 p/m
30 days x 24
1 GB p/m
R83 p/m
30 days x 24
2 GB p/m
R125 p/m
30 days x 24
5 GB p/m
R314 p/m
30 days x 24
9 GB p/m
R524 p/m
30 days x 24
18 GB p/m
R944 p/m
30 days x 24
All deals require a SIM and connection fee.

MTN Top Up Contract Data Deals

Data Amount
Price
Validity
10 MB p/m
R15 p/m
24 months
300 MB p/m
R51 p/m
24 months
500 MB p/m
R62 p/m
24 months
1 GB p/m
R93 p/m
24 months
2 GB p/m
R135 p/m
24 months

Cell C

Cell C is next. Cell C is SA’s third cellular network, having been founded in 2001, and has 11 million subscribers to date, with a 90% coverage of SA. Virgin Mobile SA piggybacks off of their network. Cell C is partly responsible for bringing about the lowering of data prices in South Africa, as well as boasting about their use of the superior 900MHz band.

But the price war that Cell C started took its toll on the network. With low prices, an influx of new subscribers crippled their network. It was the only way that they could compete with Vodacom and MTN, because they didn’t offer the same network strength. Alan Knott-Craig, CEO of Cell C, says that the only hope for the company in the future is consolidation. According to him, when the market becomes saturated, then you have to consider merging with another company. A partnership between Cell C and Telkom has been in talks for some time and may not be far off.

Cell C has for some time, since 2010, had great prepaid deals, whether they be once-off or long term. You also have the choice of whether you buy just the SIM, or the modem and SIM with some of them. Just note that with their long term prepaid deals, like the 2 GB p/m one, the data resets every 30 days as indicated on their website. The data doesn't last an entire month and doesn't reset on the 1st of the month. Of course, there are options, like with the Giga 200 deal, where the data is valid for 365 days with no monthly caps. And with the above mentioned deal, along with others, you get Giganite, which gives you data to use during off peak hours.

Their contract deals are often ridiculous compared to the prepaid option, because not only do you have to pay R195 for a SIM and connection fee, but you also usually only get a lighter 7.2 Mbps-capable modem. Being trapped in a 24 month contract isn’t ideal, when newer and better deals tend to spring up every year – not every other year. And while on the topic, be sure you sign a termination of contract notice a month in advance before the contract "expires" otherwise you'll keep having data loaded on to your sim and possibly at new rates. The Consumer Protection Act states that by law they have to put you on month to month until you cancel.

Cell C’s prepaid data bundles, which last for a calendar month, aren’t bad at all, if you don’t want to commit to a big deal like the ones above, and would rather buy bundles on a once-off basis. It’s also worth checking in at registered resellers like Makro, Game, or Dion Wired, because you might save a pretty penny with deals you won’t find at Cell C stores.

Cell C Prepaid Data Bundles

Data amount
Price
Validity
25 MB
R6
30 days
50 MB
R10
30 days
100 MB
R19
30 days
300 MB
R55
30 days
500 MB
R85
30 days
1 GB
R149
30 days
2 GB
R245
30 days
3 GB
R299
30 days
5 GB
R399
30 days
10 GB
R549
30 days
20 GB
R1099
30 days

Cell C Long Term Prepaid Deals

Data amount
Price
Validity
1.2 GB (100 MB p/m)
R89
30 days x 12
2.4 GB (200 MB p/m)
R79* (R189 normally)
30 days x 12
3 GB
R299 (R599 with modem)
365 days
6 GB
R449
365 days
12 GB
R899 (R1299 with modem)
30 days x 12
24 GB
R1299 (R1999 with modem)
30 days x 12
60 GB
R2999
30 days x 12
Giga 100 (100 GB)
R2499
365 days
200 GB (50 GB peak + 150 GB off peak**)
R1799
365 days
*Promotional offer. **Off peak times on the Cell C network are from 12 AM until 6 AM.

Cell C Contract Deals

Data amount
Price
Validity
500 MB (+ 1 GB Off peak*) p/m
R39 p/m (R45 with modem)
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
1 GB (+ 2 GB Off peak) p/m
R69 p/m
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
2 GB (+ 3 GB Off peak) p/m
R99 p/m (R119 with modem)
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
3 GB (+ 4 GB Off peak) p/m
R159 p/m
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
5 GB (+ 15 GB Off peak) p/m
R199 p/m
30 days x 12
10 GB (+ 10 GB Off peak) p/m
R449 p/m
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
20 GB (+ 20 GB Off peak) p/m
R949 p/m
30 days x 12 or 30 days x 24
Giganite 1** (1 GB Off Peak) p/m
R49 p/m
30 days x 12
Giganite 2 (2 GB Off Peak) p/m
R99 p/m
30 days x 12
Giganite 10 (10 GB off peak) p/m
R149 p/m
30 days x 12
Giganite 20 (20 GB off peak p/m
R249 p/m
30 days x 12
*Off peak times (NiteData) on the Cell C network are from 12 AM until 6 AM. **Giganite packages are not standalone and must be added to an existing contract. All deals come with a sim and connection fee of R195.

Telkom Mobile

After selling their stake in Vodacom on the JSE, 8ta was launched in 2010 by Telkom, and of lot of money was riding on it. It entered the cellular market when there were all ready 3 established networks, especially Vodacom and MTN. Cell C had just started their very competitive price war that same year.

Despite initial figures that weren’t overly impressive, 8ta did well with their target market: the youth demographic. But Telkom was looking to expand after getting their feet wet. In early 2013, they launched Telkom Mobile, and many thought that this would be the end of 8ta for good, but Telkom explained that they would keep 8ta on, but in addition to both brands being separate (and on separate networks), they would also offer different products and services.

They have since moved a lot of the prepaid and contract deals that brought 8ta a lot of business over to Telkom Mobile. A R200 SIM and connection fee applies with contract deals.

Telkom Mobile Prepaid Data Deals

Data Amount
Price
Validity
25 MB
R7,25
up to 2 months
50 MB
R14,50
up to 2 months
100 MB
R29
up to 2 months
250 MB
R39
up to 2 months
500 MB
R69
up to 2 months
1 GB
R99
up to 2 months
2 GB
R139
up to 2 months
3 GB
R199
up to 2 months
5 GB
R299
up to 2 months
10 GB
R499
up to 2 months
20 GB
R899
up to 2 months
50 GB
R1799
up to 2 months
All data bundles will expire at the end of the following calendar month after activation.

Telkom Mobile Contract Deals

Data amount
Price
Validity
10 GB (+ 10 GB Night Surfer) p/m
R299 p/m
30 days x 24

Conclusion: Which network should I go with?

Telkom Mobile and Cell C have the best deals in South Africa, contract and prepaid respectively. Telkom Mobile’s coverage isn’t that good, which is understandable seeing as they are relatively new compared to the other networks. If you live in the city or CBD, you should be fine. But if you’re out in a suburban area, then forget it. You’re likely not covered. Telkom Mobile, just like its parent company Telkom, goes where the business is. They don’t care much for the average customer or home business owner.

Cell C is the main alternative at the moment if you don’t have 8ta coverage or want to avoid having anything at all to do with Telkom or any subsidiaries thereof. They have in the past extended their coverage by piggybacking off of Vodacom towers, but I’ve read that this doesn’t apply to 3G – only EDGE, and EDGE just isn’t worth it. If you happen to be online and you’re struck with the green light of death on the Cell C network, then forget it. Log out of your accounts if you can, disconnect, and wait. Or if you’re prepared, then go online with a SIM from another provider and/or with a backup device. EDGE crawls along worse than dial up nowadays in some areas. This is why you should have your modem configured to use UMTS only. Even then, you may be in for some bother.

Vodacom and MTN are more expensive in most cases, but often you get what you pay for. I’ve honestly had less issues with MTN than I have had with Cell C. Disconnects – certainly. No throughput, on-off service, endless lack of 3G signal and continuous EDGE – no. But that might have something to do with the fact that I have an MTN cellular tower not more than 500 metres from where I live. Better network strength is what you’ll get with these two companies – that’s basically one reason why the prices are higher. I will also say that more routers out there support devices like USB modems if they’re on the MTN or Vodacom networks. So if you want better network strength, and less hassle with setups that include 3G routers, then go with Vodacom or MTN. Just don’t expect great customer service.

If they were to lower their prices and offer bigger prepaid deals, I think less people would be leaving to look elsewhere. But then that would take business away from Telkom Mobile and especially Cell C – the little cellular network provider that could; the underdog; the one that essentially brought down mobile broadband prices in South Africa in the first place. Perhaps not the leader in mobile broadband, but certainly a trend setter.

Note

Please check with the appropriate network provider to see that the promotion in question is in fact still running before attempting to sign up. These deals were all still active at the time of publication. This article is subject to being updated if appropriate. There may be errors present, although provided information gathered while researching was correct at time of publication. If you have any corrections or updates, news on deals, please leave a comment or send an email to the author.

Which cellular network provider is best?

  • Vodacom
  • MTN
  • Cell C
  • 8ta
See results without voting

© 2012 Anti-Valentine

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Comments 16 comments

Roly 10 months ago

This bundles in SA are all bullshit. We need uncapped data for cellphone deals. The rest is useless.


teachchild 16 months ago

Wonderful&Useful! Keep it up (:


Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 2 years ago from My lair Author

Hi John,

I'm not aware of any local (as in South African) mobile broadband ISPs that provide unlimited data. MTN used to provide uncapped data, but there was a fair use amount, and after that had been reached, the speeds were throttled. They no longer provide this as far as I am aware.

Your IP address listed in your comment shows that you are in Canada somewhere. I am not familiar with any mobile broadband offers in that region, unfortunately.


John 2 years ago

we run an accommodation for holiiday people. Could you inform me which company can offer unlimited internet service with a lower price. or I can ask my tenants to pay as they use. If I get the internet service with a limited GB, there is a problem for the next client if the previous client used all data.

thanks

John

yidi9192@yahoo.com


Tipp 2 years ago

This is a pity that South Africa is missing on the great development tool like the universal and cheap access to data. As much as i am against any government intervention it would be perhaps useful if the companies in question were forced to supply cheap data transfer options for educational institutions at least and a lot of public open Wi-Fi hot spots. The data transfer costs in South Africa are indeed exorbitant.


TOPTENTECH profile image

TOPTENTECH 2 years ago from USA

Thanks for the information. This was seriously useful.


anon 2 years ago

Brilliant article. Thank you


Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 2 years ago from My lair Author

Benni, not that I know of, but if you were to get some friends or relatives round who are all on different networks...

I only say this because I have family members who are on different networks, and I have been able to see what the signal from each network is like in my area. Otherwise, you could get a modem if you don't have one, and get SIMs from each network, load them with airtime (or buy small amounts of data with that airtime) and try them out in the same modem, provided the device isn't locked to prevent SIMs on another network from being used. I've read that some networks do this.

Just some ideas.


Benni 3 years ago

Great article thanks. I however live in a signal challenged area - Sandton. Without having to sign up to diffirent offers to see what their actual signal quality is, do you know if there is a service to come to my home and test which sigals are best? Happy to pay someone to come and do the work.


gkerosi profile image

gkerosi 3 years ago from Nairobi

Very informative information on selecting broadband in South Africa. There is plenty of statistics to support your claims. Thank you for sharing with us.


hdp 3 years ago

Gone are the days of the Vodacom 20GB for ZAR499 then? I used this in December 2011, and found it very affordable.


Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 3 years ago from My lair Author

Yes, I had that same problem a while back when I tried to sign up with 8ta for their 60+60 GB deal, but found out there was no 8ta coverage in my area. So I had pay almost as much to Cell C for way less than half the amount of data. Still, Cell C's big prepaid deals are a good alternative for the time being.


TheWinKing profile image

TheWinKing 3 years ago from South Africa

Great article. I can't tell you how much I loathe Vodacom right now. I recently moved to an area with only Voda coverage whereas the last two years I've been with 8ta, on their 3GB for R150 promotion as well as the 60+60GB offer. It makes my soul cringe having no option but to hand over twice the amount of money for half the amount of data.


Anti-Valentine profile image

Anti-Valentine 3 years ago from My lair Author

You're welcome.


bykkse 3 years ago

Wow great help! Thanks for this article :)


themba 4 years ago

cell c have just sneakingly raised some of their prepaid bundle prices

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