Communication (telephone, internet, mobile, tv) in South Africa
Internet in South Africa
Broadband in South Africa is getting faster and more reliable, but service provision is still very nearly monopolised by Telkom (known locally as Hellkom!) as they own the physical infrastructure used to deliver broadband data.
The speed is about half what you'd expect in London, for instance, and it costs roughly ZAR 300 per month for the average user – note that prices are dependent on the amount of bandwidth used as well as speed selection (currently users can choose 384 Kbps, 512 Kbps, 4 Mbps or 10 Mbps, with a 40 Mpbs option in the pipeline).
Slowly but surely smaller providers are springing up to challenge the aforementioned government backed giant however – Neotel is developing a good reputation, and cell phone 3G cards (through 8ta, Vodacom, Cell C or MTN) are becoming increasingly popular.
President Jacob Zuma also promised the South African constituency in his 2010 State of the Union Address that measures would be taken to increase broadband access, decrease tariffs and improve Internet service overall in the country.
Soon after, MWeb, Telkom subsidiaries and Afrihost announced offers for uncapped broadband at low-costs. Though the speed and quality of this service will remain standard until sufficient demand is on the rise, the innovation looks to significantly revolutionise the industry by allowing the country to access and download content like never before. 2011 and 2012 has seen companies starting to compete for cheaper Internet packages, particularly contract packages.
Read the fine print before signing an extended contract though, as there may be sizeable fees for terminating early.
Connectivity in South Africa is generally reliable, but can falter for days at a time when maintenance to the Seacom Cable running under the sea is underway.
Telecommunication in South Africa
Landlines are again provided by Telkom. Long distance rates are not cheap, but you can purchase a prepaid phone line for ZAR 270 per month, receive phone calls for free and use a reasonably priced phone card to call abroad when necessary. Furthermore, if you have broadband you can utilise VoIP services like Skype.
Setting up a landline is not difficult – in addition to the fee, only a passport and proof of residence are required. The waiting period can range between one day and one month for a technician to come and complete installation.
Mobile TelephoneThe big mobile providers in South Africa are Vodacom (part of Vodafone), MTN and Cell C. There is also Virgin Mobile, a virtual network service provider that operates in partnership with Cell C. You can get pay-as-you-go if you are only planning to be in South Africa short-term and purchase mobile phone hardware everywhere from department stores to speciality cellphone shops.
There is 3G coverage in all big cities, along highways and in many smaller towns. Cost is reasonable and everyone from domestic staff upwards will have a mobile phone.
Again, if you’re not sure how long you’ll be in the country, 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.
Television in South Africa
Basic cable television in South Africa consists of SABC, the parastatal broadcaster that 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 program, but most expats subscribe to DSTV - the satellite service which has hundreds of channel options, including MNet. Another affordable satellite service still in its infancy but worth considering is Top TV.
To purchase satellite television there is a once-off fee of ZAR 500 for the decoder hardware and then select packages that range from ZAR 100 – ZAR 600 per month.