Keeping in Touch in South Africa
With some of the continent's best infrastructure, expats shouldn’t have too much trouble with keeping in touch in South Africa. While there is room for improvement, there is easy access to moderately fast Internet and comprehensive mobile and fixed-line telephone networks.
Internet in South Africa
While South Africa’s mobile broadband capabilities are far closer to international standards, its fixed-line speeds lag far behind most European countries and the United States.
Internet services in South Africa are improving but service provision is almost completely monopolised by Telkom, a largely state-owned enterprise that owns the physical infrastructure used to deliver data.
There are other providers offering their own uncapped broadband services at competitive prices, however, offering consumers a bit more choice. Popular alternative providers include Afrihost and MWeb. Prices for bandwidth packages differ based on criteria such as whether the data is capped or uncapped, and its peak speed.
Despite all of the challenges that face its Internet infrastructure, more people are surfing the web in South Africa than ever before and – with a bit of adjustment and patience – expats will be able to cope with its improving Internet offerings.
Landline telephones in South Africa
Landlines in South Africa are also provided by Telkom. Long-distance rates aren't cheap, but expats can have a prepaid phone line installed with monthly rental charges and packages to suit various budgets. Expats with broadband can also utilise VoIP services such as Skype.
Setting up a landline isn't difficult – in addition to the fee, only a passport and proof of residence are required. The biggest downside is that expats could wait for as little as a day or as long as a month for a technician to arrive and install it.
Mobile phones in South Africa
The biggest mobile providers in South Africa are Vodacom, MTN and Cell C. Smaller networks include Telkom Mobile and Virgin Mobile. Expats can get pay-as-you-go SIM card if they only plan to be in South Africa for the short-term. Mobile phones can be bought at numerous places, including department stores and speciality cellular phone shops.
There is 3G coverage in all big cities, along highways and in many smaller towns. Costs are reasonable and people from a variety of backgrounds have mobile phones.
Expats unsure of how long they’ll be in the country should be wary of signing an extended contract – sizeable fees can be attached to early termination, although call rates may be better than pay-as-you-go options. However, expats staying in the country for two years or more should take advantage of one of the many competitively priced contract deals available. These usually come complete with a brand new phone.
Television in South Africa
Basic television in South Africa consists of the SABC, the parastatal broadcaster which often lacks quality and depth, and eTV, a privately-owned enterprise that offers a higher standard of news service but is generally lacking in the entertainment division.
MNet is a paid provider and has the occasional good programme, but most expats subscribe to DSTV – the country’s biggest satellite service which has dozens of international channel options, including MNet. To purchase satellite television customers need to buy a decoder and have their satellite installed for a once-off fee. Different packages are available at different monthly rates.
A new addition to the country's entertainment options is streaming services which offer viewing on demand. The two main services are Netflix and ShowMax. Both include plenty of international movies and television shows, although ShowMax also has a number of local offerings.