South Africa has its fair share of telecommunications inventions, one of these being touch-tone dialling. The country has an excellent telecommunications network that is 99.9% digital and includes the latest in fixed-line, wireless and satellite communication. Existing and planned undersea cable connections include India, Europe and Brazil. Here are the Cellphone network providers in South Africa.
No need to stand back on the cellphone stage
When it comes to cellphone, South Africa has the fourth most advanced cellphone telecommunications network worldwide. Major cellphone operators are collaborating on a 5 000km fibre-optic cable network connecting several major centres across South Africa. The five cellular providers are Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Virgin cellphone and Telkom (cellphone), which is run by Telkom.
Telkom, or hellkom?
State-owned Telkom has slowly been releasing its monopoly as the country’s sole telecommunications provider. Often referred to as “hellkom” by businesses that demand more choice, Telkom is still a major player in backbone infrastructure, including landlines to businesses and private homes. In its attempts to keep up with competitors and modern times, Telkom has been offering some innovative solutions to businesses and private subscribers, but occasionally struggles to maintain service levels.
According to Brandseye “Consumers were highly dissatisfied with their service providers, generating over five times more negative than positive conversation,”
The industry averaged with a net score of -45.3%, with Cell C and MTN having the least-worst sentiment at -36.9% and -38.4%, respectively.
Vodacom and Telkom emerged as having the worst sentiment overall, with the red network carrying the least favourable view with a net score of -53.5%, and Telkom slightly ahead at -49.7%.
South Africa has four licensed cellphone operators: MTN, Vodacom (majority owned by the UK’s Vodafone), Cell C (75% owned by Saudi Oger, an international telecommunications holdings firm), and 8ta, a subsidiary of Telkom. cellphone penetration is estimated at more than 10%, one of the highest rates in the world.
How do they fare?
Cellphone operators have slipped in their service levels, according to a South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) report. Vodacom is still the industry leader in customer satisfaction.
According to Professor André Schreuder, “Cell C is regarded as the industry leader when it comes to perceived value, with Vodacom regarded as the most expensive, although customers indicate that Vodacom offers the best quality product”. South Africans prefer quality at a fair price, rather than having to accept poor quality at a low price, which was another finding of the report.
Travellers going abroad
South Africans travelling overseas must weigh up their options carefully to avoid high charges when roaming on their cellphone network. Tariffic, a company that scientifically finds the optimal contracts and bundles for subscribers based on their behaviour and the network they use, has released its Q4 2015 Perfect Package Tracker, detailing the best network to be on when travelling overseas. According to their latest findings, MTN subscribers benefit most when travelling to the USA, the UK and Mauritius and overall provides the best overseas network coverage. Vodacom has a much thinner slice, providing the best deals in Thailand.
The best cellphone network
MyBroadband Insights has released its Q1 2020 Cell Phone Network Quality Report, highlighting the best cell phone networks in South Africa right now.
The report is based on 310,868 speedtests which were performed by thousands of MyBroadband speedtest app users across South Africa between 1 January and 31 March 2020.
|Network operator||Download speed (Mbps)||Upload speed (Mbps)||Network Quality Score|
The research shows that South Africa had an average cell phone download speed of 25.57Mbps and an average upload speed of 9.07Mbps.
MTN had the highest average download speed at 43.47Mbps, followed by Vodacom on 29.79Mbps, Telkom on 19.11Mbps, Cell C on 17.52Mbps and Rain on 15.20Mbps.
Best Cellphone network providers in South Africa
To determine the best cellphone network in South Africa, a “Network Quality Score” was calculated for each network using download speed, upload speed, and latency.
The network quality score out of 10 then shows how the network performed in relation to other networks.
MTN reigned supreme with a network quality score of 9.69, followed by Vodacom on 7.13, Rain on 5.51, Cell C on 5.00, and Telkom on 4.61.
The latest MyBroadband cellphone network quality report also includes network quality rankings for South Africa’s major cities.
The data shows that MTN was a clear winner in all major South African cities – Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Tshwane.
Travellers coming to South Africa
Those on a visit to South Africa will have no problem accessing the cellphone network providers in South Africa. Cheap cell phones, sim cards and airtime can be bought at a variety of service providers and retail shops. It might be worth the while to do a quick survey on the main operators’ websites before leaving home to ensure the best deal possible. Vodafone subscribers may especially benefit from Vodacom deals, as Vodacom is now a subsidiary of Vodafone.
Whichever cellphone option travellers to South Africa choose, they will not lose contact with friends and family back home.
Getting a South African cellphone phone number
Cell phones in South Africa are common. With 90% of the national territory covered by the GSM network. There are five primary cell phone providers in South Africa: Cell C, Vodacom, Virgin cellphone, MTN South Africa, and Telkom (formerly 8ta).
Both Pay As You Go SIM cards and contract deals are available. To sign up for a cell phone contract in South Africa, you will need to be a resident and provide bank details, South African ID, proof of address, and proof of income. If you are visiting South Africa short-term, most major international phones work in the country. Charges are usually around ZAR 25 per call and ZAR 10 per text.
Cell phone costs in South Africa have reduced greatly in the last five years due to the reduction of the interconnect rate (the cost of one cellphone network connecting to another network).
Connecting to the internet in South Africa
There are over 12 million internet users in South Africa, which represents around 34% of the population. Internet coverage in South Africa is primarily in urban areas. Some users are prohibited from dial-up as broadband availability is limited, though improving. Access to wireless broadband is in the cities and hotspots are ubiquitous in hotels, cafes, etc. Hence, you can find a map of free wifi hotspots in South Africa here.
There are a number of internet providers in South Africa. Telkom, the partially state-owned telecommunications provider in South Africa, is the biggest company providing both fixed-line and wireless packages. In addition, other popular Cellphone network providers in South Africa include MWEB, Vodacom, Neotel, MTN, and Cell C.