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

Keeping in touch in South Africa is straightforward
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 monopolised by Telkom, a largely state-owned enterprise that owns the physical infrastructure used to deliver data.

On the plus side, there has been promising growth from Neotel, which offers its own range of services and has steadily been improving its own cable infrastructure. A partnership between Neotel and Vodacom provides a further challenge to Telkom, putting pressure on the market to introduce lower prices and better services.

The government has also put a lot of effort into prioritising the growth of the country’s Internet capacity and infrastructure, with the idea being that 90 percent of the country’s population will have access to reliable and affordable broadband by the end of the decade.

Another promising development is the introduction of the country’s wireless 4G LTE data network. It offers average speeds of around 15Mbps but has the capacity to be much faster. While coverage is not yet as extensive as in some Western countries, expats would have access to HSPA or 3G where LTE is unavailable.

Other providers offer their own uncapped broadband services at competitive prices, such as 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 (part of Vodafone), MTN and Cell C. There is also Telkom Mobile and Virgin Mobile, a virtual network service provider operating with Cell C. Expats can get pay-as-you-go 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.

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.

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