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SA’s 1GB data prices still higher than African counterparts

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Despite mobile operators making efforts to reduce data prices, South Africa’s mobile data prices are still expensive in comparison with other African countries.

This is according to a new report by Cable.co.uk, in which 5 292 mobile data plans in 233 countries were gathered and analysed to compare the cost of 1GB of mobile data across the entire world.

The report ranks South Africa at number 135 out of 233 countries, with 1GB of mobile data in the country costing an average of $2.20 (R37).

In the previous edition of the report, South Africa ranked number 136 out of 230 countries. At the time, the report noted the average price of 1GB of mobile data in SA was $2.67 (R39), while the most expensive was $34.95 (R509) and the cheapest $0.12 (R1.75).

For the current report, Cable.co.uk says it measured data plans in SA, with the most expensive 1GB data price being $22.12 (R373) and the cheapest selling at $0.07 (R1.18). The sample data was collected on 23 May.

Delving into Africa

According to the report, Sub-Saharan Africa has just five countries among the top 50 cheapest in the world – Ghana, in 40th place overall, is cheapest in the region at $0.61 (R10.31).

It notes the region also has five out of the 10 most expensive countries in the world, with Saint Helena the most expensive in the world ($41.06), joined by São Tomé and Príncipe ($29.49), Botswana ($15.55), Togo ($12.94) and Seychelles ($12.66) at the bottom of the table.

Nigeria ranks at 48, with the average 1GB mobile data price in the west African country standing at $0.71 (R12). Kenya is at number 61 with an average price of $0.64 (R10.82).

Israel is home to the cheapest mobile data plans in the world, with 1GB of data costing an average of just $0.04.

The most expensive place in the world to buy mobile data is Saint Helena, where the average cost of 1GB is $41.06 – over a thousand times the cost of mobile data in Israel.

Italy is second-cheapest, with 1GB costing $0.12 on average, says Cable, adding it’s followed by San Marino ($0.14) in third place.

All but one of the seven North African countries are in the cheapest half of the table. Algeria is the cheapest at $0.48, and the most expensive in the region is Mauritania ($2.74).

Cable points out that all countries in this region are cheaper than the global average of $3.12. Northern Africa is the cheapest region in the world overall, it says.

Commenting on the worldwide rankings, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, says: “Many of the cheapest countries in which to buy mobile data fall roughly into one of two categories. Some have excellent mobile and fixed broadband infrastructure and so providers are able to offer large amounts of data, which brings down the price per gigabyte.

“Others with less advanced broadband networks are heavily reliant on mobile data and the economy dictates that prices must be low, as that’s what people can afford.

“At the more expensive end of the list, we have countries where often the infrastructure isn’t great but also where consumption is very small. People are often buying data packages of just tens of megabytes at a time, making a gigabyte a relatively large and therefore expensive amount of data to buy.”

Howdle explains that many countries in the middle of the list have good infrastructure and competitive mobile markets, and while their prices aren’t among the cheapest in the world, they wouldn’t necessarily be considered expensive by consumers.

Plummeting prices

The report comes as South African mobile operators have heeded the call to reduce the price of mobile data.

This is according to figures from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA’s) prepaid tariff analysis report, which examined tariff notifications lodged with the authority for the period 1 July to 31 December 2021.

When looking at the 500MB data bundle, ICASA’s statistics show three of the four operators amended this specific offering.

It says Cell C replaced its 800MB data bundle, which it offered for R80, with a 500MB data bundle at R65. This switch-up made Cell C’s 500MB data bundle offering the “most affordable” among the four mobile network operators.

Vodacom amended the price of its 500MB data bundle, reducing it by R10, or 12.7%, from R79 to R69, which can be translated to an in-bundle rate of R0.14 per MB.

MTN also revised the price of its 500MB data bundle, reducing it by R6, or 8%, from R75 to R69, according to the data.

This means Cell C, Vodacom and MTN charge relatively the same rate (R69) for 500MB.

Telkom made no amendment to its 500MB data bundle offering between the fourth quarter of the 2020/21 financial year and Q4 of the 2021/22 FY period, notes ICASA.

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