This is according to recent research conducted by Tariffic, which identified data contract prices from the leading mobile network operators in other Brics member countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as well Kenya and Australia. These prices were compared against the average data contract prices across all of the South African mobile network operators.
Tariffic says it understands one cannot simply convert the prices of the various data contracts to rands to get comparable results, as this does not take into account the cost of living in the various countries.
As an example, the company explains, spending R10 in SA is worth a lot more to South Africans than the equivalent of R10 is worth to Chinese in China. To ensure the company compared apples-with-apples, all figures were rebased against the "cost of living index", it adds.
Tariffic's analysis shows that, once prices were converted to rands and re-based for the cost of living, SA was consistently the second most expensive for 1GB, 2GB and 3GB data contracts, with Brazil being the most expensive in all three cases. Data prices for SA were on average 134% more expensive than the cheapest prices in the group.The report comes after media and radio personality Thabo Molefe, popularly known as Tbo Touch, led the social media campaign #DataMustFall and called on operators to lower the cost of cellphone data.
Antony Seeff, CEO of Tariffic, agrees with Molefe that SA's data prices are "daylight robbery" and that data must fall.
"Data has become a necessity in South Africa and is used for education, social services and communication," says Seeff.
"We have seen that data prices in South Africa are still more expensive than five of the other comparable countries in our study, and we implore mobile network operators, ICASA, and even government to do whatever they can to ensure that data prices do fall. Should data prices fall, companies and individuals would be able to save on their cellphone bills, with savings going straight to their pockets."
Research conducted by Research ICT Africa has shown that users, especially those in the lower income category, are spending significant portions of their income (around 20%), on relatively small amounts of data (1GB).
"How can one be expected to pay for accommodation, transport, food and other living expenses when you're forced to pay 20% of your income on data?" Seeff notes.
According to Tariffic, data is becoming a "human right" and access to the Internet is a necessity in today's society and should be easily and affordably accessible by any and all South Africans.
Over the years, as technology has progressed from 2G to 4G, data speeds have increased exponentially and, at the same time, Web sites and apps are using significantly more data than they did a few years ago, Seeff comments.
"Your 1GB of data won't get you as far as it would have a few years ago, and you would expect the prices to come down accordingly so that users will, at a minimum, continue getting the same value for the same price. However, data prices haven't come down to nearly the same degree over the years."
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