Dominant operators data prices remain static while SA struggles to get and stay online

  • South Africa is ranked 35th out of 49 African countries on the Research ICT Africa African Mobile Pricing (RAMP) Index regarding the cost of cheapest 1GB of data.
  • The cheapest 1GB of data in South Africa, offered by Telkom Mobile at ZAR99, costs seven times the cost of cheapest 1GB in Egypt and three times the cheapest 1GB in Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.
  • Prices in South Africa remain unaffordable to the majority. According to the RIA’s After Access Survey 47% of South African do not use the Internet.
  • Despite numerous data cost public hearings, the new regulations announced by the Independent Communication Authority (Icasa) do not address a more significant problem of high data prices.
  • The 5c per MB offering by Rain is excepted to put pressure on the dominant operators to reduce their data prices, which stagnated over a period of 2 years.
  • Though only half the population have access to the Internet penetration rate in South Africa is also significantly higher than any of the other seven African countries surveyed in 2017.

Almost half of South African’s (47%) over 15 years do not use the Internet.  This is one of the core findings of the After Access Survey conducted by Research ICT Africa, in 2017. Collecting information on access and use of ICTs in nine African countries, the survey identifies affordability of devices and data services as the main barriers to Internet access and use in South Africa.  Around 36 percent of non-Internet users indicate that they cannot afford Internet-enabled devices such as smartphones and 15 percent state that the Internet is too expensive for them.

This policy brief provides an assessment of data prices and operator strategies in South Africa in comparison to other markets in Africa. Using the RAMP pricing portal, a comprehensive database collecting quarterly prepaid mobile prices, an index for 1GB of data and a voice/SMS basket provides evidence that data prices are indeed high an understandably unaffordable to the poor. To capture the dynamic products offered by operators RIA introduced new bundles in 2018Q1. The new bundles measure the costs of daily, weekly and monthly 100MB, 500MB and 1GB data products.

Download full policy brief here