- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals South Africa Guide (PDF)
With some of the continent's best communications 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 is placed in the top 100 broadband speeds in the world, it still falls below the standard of a number of European and Asian destinations.
ADSL is widely available in South Africa but requires a fixed phone line. The physical infrastructure of telephone lines throughout the country is owned by Telkom (a largely state-owned enterprise). ADSL users must therefore pay Telkom for line rental as well as their internet service provider for network access. This can prove to be expensive.
The good news is that fibre, a faster and often better-value alternative, is becoming increasingly accessible in South Africa as fibre networks are extended.
Major fibre networks include Openserve (owned by Telkom), Vumatel and Frogfoot. These companies lay down and own the fibre lines in various areas. Consumers do not pay fibre networks directly but rather purchase fibre via an internet service provider. Cost is determined largely by speed and usage. Recommended internet service providers include Afrihost, RSAWEB and Cool Ideas.
Another option for those looking to get online fast is mobile broadband, powered by South Africa's mobile providers.
Mobile phones in South Africa
There are four major mobile providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom Mobile. Expats can get a pay-as-you-go SIM card if they only plan to be in South Africa for the short term. It's commonplace to use mobile data to access the internet in South Africa. In the past, prices have been high, but these are slowly starting to come down due to competition between mobile providers.
Mobile phones can be bought at numerous places, including department stores and speciality cellular phone shops. 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.
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.
Television in South Africa
Basic television in South Africa consists of the SABC, a public 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.
M-Net 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 M-Net. To purchase satellite television, customers need to buy a decoder and have their satellite installed for a once-off fee. Various packages are available at different monthly rates.
Streaming services offering viewing on demand are a newer addition to the country's entertainment options. The two main services are Netflix and Showmax, and Disney+, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime have more recently become available. These include plenty of international movies and television shows, while Showmax also has some local offerings.
►For expat financial matters, see Banking, Money and Taxes in South Africa
Are you an expat living in South Africa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to South Africa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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