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Basics Edit

Providers Edit

The Republic of South Africa has 4 network operators:

  • Vodacom
  • MTN
  • Cell C
  • Telkom (formely 8ta)

This is supplemented by Hello Mobile and Virgin Mobile and some other MVNOs running on the Cell C network. MTN had recently expressed interest to host MVNOs and have thus partnered with Afrihost, a leading South African ISP. Another 4G/LTE operator called Neotel focuses on home broadband and triple play only. That's why it's not mentioned any further.

Frequencies and coverage Edit

The 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies deliver 2G for all operators with 3G offered on 900 MHz and 2100 MHz except for Telkom using 850 MHz. 4G/LTE was launched in 2012 on 1800 MHz in major centres by Vodacom and MTN and more recently on 2300 MHz (TD-LTE) and 1800 MHz on Telkom and 2100 MHz and 1800 MHz on Cell C.

Vodacom followed by MTN have the best coverage and speeds in the country. Cell C and Telkom are far behind, but both have a national roaming agreement with either Vodacom or MTN for coverage outside of their own footprint. These agreements only refer to 2G and 3G, but not to 4G/LTE. So if you need fast data, they might not be such a good solution outside of city centres.

Availability and registration Edit

Prepaid SIM cards are available in provider outlets, airports and almost all retail chain stores usually at R5 or less. Since 2009 all SIM cards need to be registered before activation by a RICA agent with registration usually done at the point of purchase. RICA stands for the SIM registration scheme and requires an ID card or passport and a proof of residence.

You don't need to go to a store of the providers to get your RICA as many supermarkets can perform the same duties much faster. Some users have been rejected, because officially you need a home address and have to prove it, what can't be done by most passports. Many RICA agents take your hotel or B&B address in South Africa instead. A few may insist on this address though and you might think of bringing along something official like an ID card with your name and address or a hotel reservation to get approved.

Recharges Edit

The SIM card needs to be recharged with airtime value to make calls and purchase bundles. Many plans may give you "free" airtime but this can't be used to purchase bundles. You can recharge at most retail stores including: Clicks, CNA, Dis-Chem Pharmacies, Edgars, Jet, Legit, Mr Price, Pep Stores, Pick ‘n Pay, Shoprite Checkers, Spar, Woolworths and Ster Kinekor and the petrol stations of BP, Caltex, Engen, Total, Sasol and Shell.

More info Edit

South Africa has the usual 220 V / 50 Hz electricty supply, but uses a strange macro-shaped plug. You will need to bring or buy an special adaptor. A variety of adaptors or chargers are available in phone shops for around R 100 in the country.

More info you can find on the excellent website of bundlfundi with further advise for travellers and different prepaid plans compared. They are highly recommmended for more information.

Vodacom Edit

Vodacom

Vodacom is the biggest mobile provider in South Africa and is 50% owned by UK-based Vodafone. It’s the market leader with the most customers, best coverage (coverage map) at the highest prices.

In an independent network test in 2017 Vodacom was placed top in all six categories and achieved the overall highest score. Vodacom’s 2G network covers 99.9% of the country’s population, with 3G at 99.2% and 4G at 70% in 2017. That is 91% in the metro areas and 44% in rural areas and the widest of the country’s mobile network operators.

They sell two different lines of SIM cards: regular plans and a tourist oriented product called B4IGO (for 'before I go').

Availability Edit

Their regular prepaid SIM cards are available in all of their outlets (Vodacom Store Locator) for around R5 as well as most supermarkets, including Woolworths in the airports of Johannesburg and Capetown. There is a Vodacom store in OR Tambo International Airport (on the right after leaving the baggage reclaim area).

Vodacom offers a large variety of price plans and the Vodacom Prepaid 79c Plan is the easiest, best value plan for voice calls. At the airport they may try to sell you the B4IGO cards only (see below), which may not be such a good deal, though they do carry the regular SIMs too, albeit for a significant premium (the Vodacom shop at O.R. Tambo airport charged R 100 for the SIM alone in April 2016).

RICA registration at the airport is quick as they are used to registering tourists with a passport and proof of accomodation. Most supermarkets have the equipment to register SIM cards (look for 'RICA agent' sign). Most retail outlets carry three-in-one SIM sizes.

Top-ups can be made at almost any retail outlet.

Data feature packs Edit

A variety of monthly packs for data is available and offered in both a recurring and a once-off version at the same price. The default rate out of bundle or for overuse is R 2 per MB.

  • daily bundles (valid until midnight) - activation: *111# 6 -> 1:
    • 20 MB: R 5
    • 60 MB: R 8
    • 100 MB: R 13
    • 250 MB: R 20
  • monthly bundles - activation: *111# option 2:
    • 15 MB: R 9
    • 30 MB: R 12
    • 100 MB: R 29
    • 250 MB: R 59
    • 500 MB: R 99
    • 1 GB: R 149
    • 2 GB: R 249
    • 3 GB: R 299
    • 5 GB: R 399
    • 10 GB: R 599
    • 20 GB: R 999

You can activate all these bundles on your Vodacom account or by typing *111# and follow the menu options. Balance check is through *111# too.

It can be cheaper to obtain a SIM, add credit, and then add the data package via your account online. In one instance, a user saw a 5 GB package offered on My Vodacom for R 259.

B4IGO Edit

B4IGO is a line of tourist SIM cards bought via their website to be collected at their store when arriving at the airport. It has the advantage that starter packs and add-ons can be bought online using international credit cards or PayPal and are pre-registered, but it comes with a surcharge compared to regular SIM cards.

  • Starter packs for voice, text and data:
    • Smartphone: SIM card, 500 MB data, R 139 airtime: R 449
    • Smartphone plus: SIM card, 1 GB data, R 275 airtime: R 649
    • Smartphone mega: SIM card, 2 GB data, R 550 airtime: R 999
  • Starter packs for data-only:
    • Basic Data: SIM card, 1 GB data: R 299
    • Superdata: SIM card, 2 GB data: R 399
    • Megadata: SIM card, 5 GB data: R 599
    • Modem: SIM card, USB dongle (Vodafone K3772Z) 1 GB data: R 449
    • Router: SIM card, Wifi router (Vodafone R 206-Z), 2 GB data: R 1199

Generally all three sizes of SIM cards are available. Included data allowance is valid for a month.

With B4IGO you have the disadvantage of two or three different balances on your prepaid card: one for airtime (voice and text) and one for data and possibly a third one for international calls.

They offer these data add-ons for all B4IGO SIM cards valid for one month:

  • 1 GB: R 199
  • 2 GB: R 299
  • 3 GB: R 399
  • 5 GB: R 499

More info Edit

MTN Edit

MTN

MTN is a multinational mobile phone company based in South Africa and the biggest rival of Vodacom. Its network and speeds are almost on par (Coverage map). MTN enabled 4G/LTE in 2014 and MTN's data is generally cheaper compared to Vodacom due to their frequent data bonuses. MTN is the only provider that roams in Swaziland, if you should travel there.

Availablility Edit

MTN SIM cards are 4G enabled and are available in all their stores (MTN Store Finder) and many supermarkets sometimes for as low as R 1.50, but usually R 5. It's easiest to complete the RICA registration in one of their stores already.  

There is a MTN store in OR Tambo International Airport, on the right after leaving the baggage reclaim area. In July 2016, it was R 63.5 for the SIM with R 60 credit, plus the price of the regular data bundle of your choice. They are used to tourists and will activate the SIM and data bundle for you. You will need your passport and a proof of accommodation.  

The prepaid SIM card is called PayAsYouGo. It offers multiple voice plans, data plans and international bundles. By default the cards are activated with the Base Plan which is R1.50 per min. You can switch to the "79c/min price plan" officially called Pay Per Second (by dialing *141*4*4#) as it's their most competitive and simple price plan and cheaper in every aspect than the Base Plan.  

Reload vouchers are available at most retail stores and service stations. Common voucher denominations are R5, R10, R15, R30, R60 or R180.

They have different prepaid tariff plans, but data stays at R 0.99 per MB on all of them, when no bundle is purchased or for overuse. MTN offers the widest variety of data bundles in the country:

Data feature packs Edit

  • hourly bundles (valid for 1 hour):
    • 10 MB: R 1.50
    • 50 MB: R 5
    • 100 MB: R 10
  • daily bundles (valid until midnight):
    • 20 MB: R 4
    • 35 MB: R 6
    • 50 MB: R 8.50
    • 75 MB: R 12
    • 100 MB: R 15
    • 200 MB: R 25
    • "uncapped" (with FUP of 3 GB): R 40
  • weekly bundles (valid for 7 days):
    • 50 MB: R 10
    • 100 MB: R 15
    • 300 MB: R 35
    • 500 MB: R 45
    • 1 GB: R 65
    • 1 GB for 2 weeks: R 89
  • These following monthly bundles include bonus data often valid for a shorter period:
Regular

Data

Bonus

Data

Bonus

Validity

Price
5 MB 1.25 MB 1 day R 4
20 MB 5 MB 1 day R 12
50 MB 12.5 MB 3 days R 25
100 MB 25 MB 3 days R 35
300 MB 75 MB 5 days R 85
500 MB 125 MB 5 days R 105
1 GB 500 MB 15 days R 160
2 GB 1 GB 30 days R 260
3 GB 1.5 GB 15 days R 330
5 GB 2.5 GB 15 days R 430
10 GB 2.5 GB 15 days R 650
20 GB 5 GB 15 days R 1250

The 5, 10 and 20 GB bundles above have a regular data validity of 2 months.

Activation by typing *141*2# and <call>, get balance by typing *141*1# and <call> or online on your account. Packages don’t auto-renew. To activate the bonus, dial *141*2*999#.

Night use is midnight to 6am. These night bundles are sold:

  • 250 MB within one night: R 5
  • 1 GB within one night: R 10
  • 300 MB within 30 nights: R 25
  • 500 MB within 30 nights: R 35
  • 1 GB within 30 nights: R 59
  • 2 GB within 30 nights: R 109
  • 5 GB within 30 nights: R 139

More info Edit

Cell C Edit

Cell C

Cell C is the 3rd operator in South Africa. It claims to cover 98% of population, but still has gaps in certain areas: Cell C Coverage Map. Cell C started a price war in 2011 by undercutting its rivals, but most operators by now offer comparable price plans.

Cell C has roaming on the Vodacom network outside areas of their own coverage, but this applies to 2G and 3G only, not to 4G/LTE.

They started 4G/LTE in Gauteng and Durban on 2100 MHz to be spread to 1800 MHz in other centers of the country.

Availability Edit

The starter pack is sold in their stores for 99c (Cell C Store Locator).

  • The 66c price plan has the simplest and cheapest default call rate and the data bundles. The default out of bundle data rate is R 2 per MB.
  • They also offer the SupaCharge plan that gives you recharge bonus with limited validity
  • On the MegaData Bundle plan recharges of R 50 or more get bonus data (3 times the recharge value) with limited validity capped at 3 GB.

As an option to all plans, you can activate the Bhansela Data Bundle by *108#. For a recharge with R 20 or more in a calendar month, get 50 MB bonus data (valid for 7 days) and an out-of-bundle data rate of 35c per MB (instead of R 2) for the remainder of the calendar month.

Data feature packs Edit

To all plans these bundles can be booked:

  • daily bundles (valid midnight to midnight) - activation: *147*4*1*1# :
    • 20 MB: R 3
    • 50 MB: R 7
    • 100 MB: R 13
  • nightly bundles (to be used 1am to 7am only) for one night:
    • 250 MB: R 6
    • 1 GB: R 15
  • monthly bundles with roll-over - activation: *147# or *109# :
    • 30 MB: R 11
    • 60 MB: R 20
    • 100 MB: R 29
    • 200 MB: R 49
    • 500 MB: R 99
    • 1 GB: R 149
    • 2 GB: R 249
    • 3 GB: R 299
    • 5 GB: R 399
    • 10 GB: R 599
    • 20 GB: R 999
  • WhatsApp bundle (without VoIP) for one month: 1 GB for R 7.50

To activate bundles, dial *109# or *147#. Only all monthly bundles allow carry over of unused allowances to the next month if a new bundle is purchased.

More info Edit

Telkom (formerly 8ta) Edit

Telkom

Telkom is a South African based telecommunication company with the 4th network in the nation. It entered the market in 2010 and was called '8ta', but has been renamed later into Telkom. It offers the lowest rates for data in the country of any network operator.

While it has a very small coverage only mainly in the cities, it roams on the 2G and 3G network of MTN but not on 4G/LTE for free. So make a network scan before. Note that their own 3G is on 850 Mhz: Telkom Coverage Map  (Telkom coverage is orange, when you switch to TM Coverage). Telkom's 4G/LTE is on the rare TD-LTE 2300 Mhz (band 40) in the areas marked on the map (switch to LTE).

Availability Edit

Their SIM cards are available at their stores Telkom Store Locator. and other retail outlets. Their prepaid SIMs are called SIM-Sonke or More. You get a starter pack for 99c that provides calls to other networks for 75c/min. Top-ups are available everywhere and may come with double voice call bonuses.

Telkom agents can get quite strict about the RICA registration and sometimes demand a proof for the given address which is hard to do. If you have been rejected, go somewhere else and try your luck or bring something written with your name and an address on it.

Data feature packs Edit

Data by default is at low R 0.29 per MB. All data bundles can now be used on own Telekom and the roaming network of MTN.

  • 75 MB for 1 hour: R 5
  • 100 MB for 1 day: R 10
  • 500 MB for the weekend (Sat/Sun): R 39
  • 1 GB for the weekend (Sat/Sun): R 59

These monthly data packs are once-off and valid until the end of the next calendar month:

  • 25 MB: R 7.25
  • 50 MB: R 14.50
  • 100 MB: R 29
  • 250 MB: R 39
  • 500 MB: R 69
  • 1 GB: R 99
  • 2 GB: R 139
  • 3 GB: R 199
  • 5 GB: R 299
  • 10 GB: R 499
  • 20 GB: R 899 (for 6 months)
  • 50 GB: R 1799 (for 12 months)
  • 100 GB: R 3199 (for 12 months)

There is no limit to the number of packages that a subscriber can purchase within a month. To purchase, dial *180#.

More info Edit

Hello Mobile Edit

Hello mobile

Hello Mobile by the Hello Group is the largest MVNO in the country today with 1.4 million subscribers. Starting in 2009 it uses the network of Cell C with Vodacom roaming in 2G and 3G. 90% of their clients are foreign nationals, who use it for their low international call rates. But it has good rates for data too, if you don't need 4G/LTE.

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is sold in Hello Mobile and Hello Paisa shops and other branded shops where you see their sign which may not be so easy to find in all three sizes. Try to do the RICA registration there. You can get it online for free too to be sent to a South African postal address. If you have ordered it online, you'll need to go in person to a RICA agent to have it registered, before you can use it.

Reloads can be found and done easily as you can use any Cell C voucher for it (see above). The SIM will stay active up to 120 days after the last activity. Check balance by *101#.

Data feature packages Edit

Data is at expensive R 2 per MB on their standard 66c plan, on other plans it's lower at R 0.79-0.99. You can add these bundles to all plans:

  • daily bundles (valid until midnight):
    • 20 MB: R 2.70
    • 50 MB: R 6.50
    • 100 MB: R 12.50
  • nightly bundles (valid 1am to 7am only):
    • 250 MB: R 5
    • 1 GB: R 10
  • monthly bundles (valid for 30 days):
    • 25 MB: R 6
    • 50 MB: R 10
    • 100 MB: R 19
    • 300 MB: R 55
    • 500 MB: R 85
    • 1 GB: R 149
    • 2 GB: R 245
    • 3 GB: R 299
    • 5 GB: R 399
    • 10 GB: R 549
    • 20 GB: R 1099

Activation is through *147#. Overuse is at default rate of the plan.

More info Edit

Virgin Mobile Edit

Virgin mobile

Virgin Mobile started as South Africa’s first MVNO in 2006 as a joint venture between Cell C and the Virgin Group. It uses the network of Cell C (for coverage check Cell C above) with some 2G/3G roaming on Vodacom.

Availability Edit

Their SIM card is free in their few stores Virgin Mobile store finder and outlets, but you have to top-up right away. You are likely to walk past their display stand with free SIM cards just past the customs area on exiting the terminal at the Johannesburg airport.

Data feature packs Edit

Default data rate outside of bundles is expensive R 0.99 per MB. These data plans are offered:

Price Data Validity
R 2 10 MB 24 hours
R 5 25 MB 7 days
R 10 50 MB
R 50 250 MB 30 days
R 100 600 MB
R 150 1 GB
R 250 2 GB
R 500 5 GB

Download the My Virgin Mobile App or dial *110# to buy a data bundle. All data bundles, except the R 2 bundle will automatically renew after being expired. If you would like to stop the bundle from renewing, dial *110# and follow the prompts. 

Greater Data promotion: When you buy a data bundle by dialling *110#, you will immediately get the option to buy the same bundle again at half the price. The expiry period of the promotional bundle stays the same as the standard bundle's expiry. Once you have bought your initial bundle and if you decline the option to purchase the second one, then you automaticaly forfeit the promotional rate. You will need to buy another bundle at the full rate and then you'll qualify for the discounted bundle on the next prompt. 

More info Edit

Lycamobile Edit

Lycamobile

The UK-based provider Lycamobile has soft-launched in South Africa in summer 2017 as 22nd country. It operates on the network of Cell C with some 2G/3G roaming on Vodacom, but no 4G/LTE yet: coverage maps.

Availability Edit

The starter is usually for free in their outlets (look for their logo). You should be able to perform your RICA registration there. You can order it online too sent to an South African postal address, but this requires that you go to a RICA agent for registration. You can check your RICA status here.

You'll need to top-up your SIM rightaway. You can buy top-up vouchers from your local retailer or online by credit card. The voucher shows a PIN either printed on it or underneath a scratch panel. Enter *101*<PIN>#. Check balance by *101#.

Data feature packs Edit

Default rate without a package activated or for overuse is R 0.99 per MB. You have the choice of these packages valid for 30 days:

Data Price Activation
50 MB R 10 *139*2701#
100 MB R 19 *139*2702#
500 MB R 79 *139*2703#
1 GB R 149 *139*2704#
2 GB R 245 *139*2705#
3 GB R 299 *139*2706#
5 GB R 399 *139*2707#
10 GB R 599 *139*2708#

It's not yet known, if these bundles auto-renew, but it's very likely.

More info Edit

  • APN: it says "data.lycamobile.it" on their website, more likely is "data.lycamobile.co.za"
  • Username: "lmit", try "lmza" too
  • Password: plus
  • Website: http://www.lycamobile.co.za

Afrihost Edit

Afrihost

Afrihost is a South African Internet Service Provider offering a number of services like ADSL broadband and web hosting. They offer some of the lowest data rates in the country for mobile internet operating on the network of MTN (coverage map) in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE.

Availability Edit

SIM cards can be ordered online and will be sent to any postal address in the country within 2-3 days. A R 149 RICA fee for registration applies.

Alternatively, you can opt-in on any MTN SIM (not of any other network) to Afrihost. This can be made online on your account at "my connectivity". You need to select "I have a MTN SIM card". This may take a while, but no new RICA registration is necessary and your MTN balance will be retained. You'll need to adjust your APN to Afrihost (see below).

Be aware that 4G/LTE is only enabled by default on SIM cards obtained directly from Afrihost. If you've obtained a SIM card elsewhere and opt-in to Afrihost, you'll need to manually request LTE provisioning by contacting them via email, telephone or live chat and activation can take up to 72 hours.

Data feature packs Edit

Out of bundle charge is optional and costs 10c per MB. These monthly data bundles are offered:

  • 500 MB: R 29
  • 1 GB: R 58
  • 2 GB: R 99
  • 3 GB: R 145
  • 4 GB: R 197
  • 5 GB: R 245
  • 6 GB: R 297
  • 8 GB: R 397
  • 10 GB: R 497
  • 15 GB: R 747
  • 20 GB: R 987

All rates are tax included and valid for 30 days. You can add-on top-ups for R 99 per GB valid until the end of the following month.

More info Edit

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