The highs and lows of data prices in SA
Data-only network Rain has the cheapest 1GB data bundle in South Africa, while MTN and Vodacom are still the most expensive.
This is according to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa's (ICASA's) most recent bi-annual tariff analysis report, which looks at 163 tariff notifications lodged with the authority during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.
ICASA's statistics show Rain's "One Plan Package" prepaid mobile data offering costs R50 for 1GB of prepaid data, which is half the price of the next cheapest 1GB from Telkom Mobile, at R100, and a third of the price of both MTN and Vodacom's 1GB prepaid bundles, which cost R149.
ICASA says this "should have a positive impact on customers' pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and [this] increases choice".
Meanwhile, Afrihost's month-to-month mobile prepaid data plan offers a 1GB bundle at R68, while its prepaid price is R109 for 1GB, slightly more expensive than Telkom's price of R100. FNB Connect's 1GB bundle is not far behind at R125. This means Vodacom and MTN charge 119.1% higher than Afrihost's month-to-month bundle and 19.2% higher than FNB Connect for the same 1GB bundle.
Cell C, in October, changed many of its data bundle sizes, which makes it harder to compare. It replaced its 1GB bundle with 1.5GB for the same price, which effectively makes it cheaper than Vodacom and MTN, as Cell C customers get 500MB more for the same price that Vodacom and MTN customers pay for just 1GB.
ICASA says the report "seeks to ensure there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings".
ICASA also observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the six-month period. However, when looking at the standard prepaid data bundle rates, there is a lot of variation between the different mobile network operators (MNOs).
Vodacom's price for 500MB of data is R100, while Telkom Mobile charges R69.60 for the same amount of data. MTN discontinued its 500MB offer in 2018 and introduced a 600MB data bundle priced at R99, offering more data value at almost the same price as Vodacom.
Cell C also discontinued its 500MB bundle in October 2018, replacing it with a 750MB bundle at R100. This means a Cell C customer gets 250MB more than a Vodacom customer at the same price, and 150MB more, for just R1, when compared to an MTN customer.
The 100MB bundle is the most standard, with MTN, Cell C and Vodacom all charging the same rate of R29. Telkom's 100MB is slightly more expensive, at R29.25, although in general Telkom's prices are lower than its competitors. FNB Connect has an even cheaper price in this category, with a 100MB bundle for R27, while mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Lycamobile charges R10 for 100MB.
Vodacom and Telkom Mobile's prices for a 2GB data bundle are R249 and R140, respectively. MTN discontinued its 2GB data bundle during 2018 and replaced it with a 1.5GB bundle, priced at R189. Cell C also replaced its 2GB data bundle with a 2.5GB bundle, priced at R249. Telkom Mobile offers the most affordable 2GB bundle among the MNOs; however, MVNO Lycamobile offers this bundle at R79, which is by far the cheapest.
When it comes to a 3G bundle, MTN and Vodacom both charge R299, while Telkom Mobile charges the lowest rates among the MNOs at R201. Cell C discontinued its 3GB data bundle it offered at R299, replacing it with a 4.6GB data bundle at the same price.
Telkom charges the lowest price for the 5GB bundle at R301 when compared to Vodacom, at R405. In 2018, MTN discontinued the 5GB data bundle it offered at R430 and replaced it with a 6GB data bundle priced at R399. Cell C has also discontinued the 5GB bundle it offered for R399, replacing it with a 6.6GB bundle at the same price.
Overall, Telkom's data bundles remain the most affordable among the four operators, with the exception of its 10GB and 20GB bundles, for which it charges R505 and R905, respectively, while MTN and Cell C charge R499 for 10GB.
Cell C's 20GB price is the lowest among the MNOs, priced at R799. Vodacom is still, however, the most expensive MNO in both categories, charging R605 for 10GB and R1 010 for 20GB. Lycamobile has an even cheaper price for 20GB of data at R399, while MVNO FNB Connect charges R1 380 for a 20GB data bundle and Afrihost charges R1 600 for a prepaid 20GB bundle.
The report predominantly covers the six months to the end of December 2018, but ICASA thought it was important to note that both MTN and Vodacom have halved their out-of-bundle (OOB) rates in 2019.
MTN filed a new OOB rate on 17 January 2019, which was a decrease of 50.5% to R0.49/MB. Vodacom also filed a notification on 19 February, which showed a decrease in its OOB rate from R0.89 for postpaid and hybrid plans and R0.99 for prepaid to R0.49 across all plans. Telkom has increased its OOB rate from R 0.29/MB to R0.30/MB but it is still the lowest of the MNOs. Cell C has by far the highest OOB rate at R1.10/MB.
FNB Connect also decreased its OOB rate by 70% from R1 to R0.30/MB on 1 November 2018. Rain has the lowest OOB rate at R0.05/MB.
ICASA's data shows in-bundle data rates decrease as the size of the data bundle increases. This means the smaller the bundle a customer buys, the higher the tariff rate per MB.
For example, a Telkom Mobile customer who buys a 100MB data bundle will pay an in-bundle rate of R0.29/MB, whereas a customer that purchases a 20GB data bundle will pay R0.04/MB. Similarly, Vodacom customers who purchase a 1GB bundle would pay an in-bundle rate of R0.15/MB but just R0.08 per/MB for a 5GB bundle.