Being connected is a vital element of expat life. Having a South African phone number and access to the internet in South Africa enables you to keep in touch with friends and family back at home, along with new people you’ve recently met.
Whether you are renting or buying property in South Africa, you’ll want to get internet, phone services and TV sorted out fairly quickly as well as making sure that South African utilities are connected. You will need to contact the relevant telecommunications providers in South Africa to get these things connected or transferred to your name if they already are. If you are renting a place, you will also want to find out from the landlord if any of the associated charges are included in your rent costs.
This guide covers the key information about telecommunications in South Africa including how to go about finding suitable providers for services such as internet and mobile phone. It will cover:
- Connecting a telephone in South Africa
- Mobile phones in South Africa
- Connecting internet in South Africa
- Connecting television in South Africa
- Main internet, phone and TV suppliers in South Africa
- Comparing providers
- Registering a complaint
Telecommunications in South Africa
Telecommunications in South Africa, including internet, television and phone services, are provided to a good standard in urban areas. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of providers in all industries, meaning greater consideration needs to be given to choosing the appropriate packages. To watch TV in South Africa, you will need to purchase a TV license from SABC.
Connecting telephone in South Africa is fairly straightforward. Landline rental is provided by only two companies – Telkom (who until fairly recently had a monopoly on South African line rental) and Neotel. Telkom offers standard landline rental alongside various internet and mobile phone deals. Neotel offers a wider range of packages but, as it is a fairly new company, has more limited coverage. Both companies charge an installation fee.
Landlines can be ordered from either company online or by phone. Once the order is placed, the company will contact you to set a date for installation or delivery. Landline costs are around ZAR 200 per month, with combined phone and internet packages starting at around ZAR 600 per month.
Mobile phones in South Africa are common, with 90% of the national territory covered by the GSM network. There are five main mobile phone providers in South Africa: Cell C, Vodacom, Virgin Mobile, MTN South Africa and Telkom (formerly 8ta).
Both Pay As You Go SIM cards and contract deals are available. To sign up for a mobile 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 (EUR 1.56) per call and ZAR 10 (EUR 0.62) per text.
Mobile 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 mobile network connecting to another network).
There are over 12 million internet users in South Africa, which represents around 34% of the population. Internet coverage in South Africa is mostly restricted to urban areas and some users are restricted to dial-up as broadband availability is limited, though improving. Wireless broadband is available in the cities and hotspots are ubiquitous in hotels, cafes, etc. 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 largest company providing both fixed line and wireless packages. Other popular internet providers in South Africa include Neotel, MWEB, Vodacom, MTN and Cell C.
Internet speed in South Africa varies but is normally between 2-40Mb, depending on the provider. Internet costs in South Africa are quite expensive given the speeds available and consists of three parts – ADSL line rental (starting at ZAR 165 a month for a 2Mb line), regular phone line rental (ZAR 200 a month) and internet service provider (ISP) which starts at around ZAR 25 a month for 1GB. Telkom and Neotel are the only internet providers in South Africa that provide landline rental. Companies have started offering internet provision that doesn’t require a landline, through fibre optic router, although coverage is still limited. Prices start at around ZAR 700 a month.
To set up internet in South Africa, you will need to make sure you have a working landline with either Telkom or Neotel. You then choose your internet provider. The time taken to set up internet connection in your home will depend on which provider you choose.
Television in South Africa includes four main stations: three run by the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) – SABC 1, SABC 2, SABC 3 – and eTV. There are also various community-based stations, such as Cape Town TV and Soweto TV, and a digital satellite provider (DStv) which provides over 100 channels.
To watch TV in South Africa, you will need a valid South African TV license which costs ZAR 265 a year. There is a monthly payment option with a small premium, which works out at ZAR 336 per year. Failing to pay the South African TV license can result in a fine equivalent to 100% of the license amount.
South Africa has recently made the switch from analogue to digital, so in most areas you won’t need to worry about an aerial for reception. Cost of South African TVs vary greatly depending on model and size and can vary from ZAR 2,000 to ZAR 200,000.
Internet and phone providers
- Cell C – www.cellc.co.za
- MTN – www.mtn.co.za
- MWEB – www.mweb.co.za
- Telkon – www.telkom.co.za
- Virgin Mobile – www.virginmobile.co.za
- Vodacom – www.vodacom.co.za
Digital TV providers
Comparing internet deals in South Africa
Comparing mobile phone deals in South Africa
Other comparison websites in South Africa
If you have a complaint or need to raise an issue with any of the telecommunications industries in South Africa, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is the national regulating body for telecommunications in South Africa.