Keeping in Touch in South Africa
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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 has one of the top 100 broadband speeds in the world, it still falls below the standard of a number of European and Asian destinations.
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. However, the majority of South Africans access the internet via their mobile phones.
Apart from Telkom, there are other providers offering their own broadband services at competitive prices. Popular alternative providers include Afrihost and MWeb. Prices for bandwidth packages differ based on criteria such as the speed of the connection as well as whether the data is capped or uncapped.
Despite 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 should be able to cope with the country's gradually improving internet offerings.
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.
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.