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

Policy Brief 1: Africa Mobile Pricing, 2018

Almost half of South Africans (47%) over the age of 15 years do not use the Internet. This is one of the core findings of the 2017 After Access Survey conducted by Research ICT Africa (RIA). After collecting information on the access and use of ICTs in nine African countries, the Survey identifies the affordability of devices and data services as the main barriers to Internet access and use in South Africa. Close to 36 percent of non-Internet users in the country 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 compared to other markets in Africa. RIA’s African Mobile Pricing (RAMP) Index, an index for prepaid mobile baskets of data and a voice/SMS 1mixture, provides evidence that data prices are indeed unaffordable to the poor. 2To capture the dynamism of product and service offerings in Africa’s prepaid mobile markets, RIA introduced new bundles in Q1 2018. For example, new data baskets measure the costs of 100MB, 500MB and 1GB data bundles available on daily, weekly and monthly validity periods.


1. South Africa is ranked 35th out of 49 African countries on the RAMP Index’s cheapest 1GB prepaid mobile data bundles.

2. The cheapest 1GB of data in South Africa, offered by Telkom Mobile (ZAR99), costs seven times more than Egypt’s cheapest, and three times that in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria.

3. Data prices remain unaffordable to the majority of people in South Africa, where 47% of the population does not use the Internet, according to RIA’s 2017 After Access Survey.

4. Although only half the population has access to the Internet, the penetration rate in South Africa is significantly higher than any other African country surveyed in 2017.

5. Despite numerous public hearings on the cost of data, the new regulations announced by ICASA do not address this significant problem.

6. Network coverage and service quality appear to retain even price-sensitive consumers, who may be attracted to Rain’s new, incumbent-challenging 5c per MB offering.

Suggested citation

Mothobi, O., Gillwald, A., & Rademan, B. (2018). Dominant operators’ data prices remain static while SA struggles to get and stay online (Policy Brief No. 1; Africa Mobile Pricing). Research ICT Africa.