Wireless broadband costs in South Africa have started trending down, thanks to Cell C

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How it all started

Cell C

When Cell C, the David of mobile telecommunications in South Africa, launched a new brand identity in late 2010, a price war was started with the introduction of mobile data specials, where 2 gig and 5 gig data bundles were offered at R149 and R299 per month on contract, or R1,499 for 24 gigs and R2,999 for 60 gigs on prepaid.

Both categories of mobile data bundles are valid for 12-months.

At first I was skeptical, because the new specials resulted in data cost per megabyte being reduced from 19 cents to 7 cents on the promoted bundles – a decline of more than 60%! 

However, the passing of time (3 months to be exact) assured me that Cell C’s deal was for real.

Initially, the specials were going to expire at the end of December 2010, but this was subsequently replaced with the tag “while stocks last”. It has now been more than 6 months and there is still plenty of stock by the looks of things.

The big players eventually joined the mobile data price war

On the first of April 2011, Vodacom responded to Cell C’s promotion with a 2 gig mobile data bundle special. This special applies to contract packages only, and it is at the same price as Cell C.

MTN finally joined the front runners in late May and advertised their 2 gig mobile data bundle special on contract. Their price matches Cell C’s and Vodacom’s.

The table below indicates similarities and differences  between the 3 mobile operators’ specials:

Comparative Table: Data Bundle Promotions
Comparative Table: Data Bundle Promotions

Things worth noting about the mobile data specials

  1. Vodacom’s 2 gig promotion includes a free premium email account with 5 GB and 5 aliases. I did not include this in the comparative table because there are plenty of free email services on offer, including Google, Webmail, Yahoo and Mailbox. 
  2. The data bundle comparison in the table above does not consider issues to do with mobile network coverage. What’s great, Cell C will check this before they sell you a preferred data bundle.
  3. The data carry-over feature (offered by both Vodacom and MTN) would be great for those who use minimal data that fluctuates from one month to the next, because they will not lose out on the data that was not fully utilized in one month. 
  4. Vodacom appeals to the minority who can use the free 2 gigs a month, but  are able to do so at ungodly hours of between 00:00 and 5:00.

My assessment of the various mobile data specials

Cell C’s mobile data promotion is superior to Vodacom’s and MTN’s in two respects:

  1. It includes a 5 gig data bundle. 
    This package is attractive to heavy users and it drives the price down to 6 cents per megabyte on a contract package.
  2. It includes a prepaid package for both 2 gig and 5 gig data bundles.
    Prepaid comes at a discount of 16% to contract over the 12-month period. This drives the cost per megabyte further down to 5 cents, and it beats keeping money in the bank at current interest rates.

Sustainability of the current mobile data specials?

Vodacom has indicated that the current promotion price for 2 gig mobile data bundle cannot be maintained because it is below cost and is thus unsustainable.
This could explain why only Cell C extended the promotional price point to the 5 gig data bundle and prepaid customers. One wonders why they can do it when others claim they can’t?
However, I would like to take a bet that the three mobile operators will not revert back to the original price points of the promoted data bundles.
Cell C deserves a special mention for taking the lead in this price war.
It’s all :-) for consumers.

Also see a PC Bunny blog on mobile broadband cost comparisons between South Africa and other selected countries.


  • Nuffdotty – where thoughts on the subject of education, mostly relating to South Africa, are shared
  • Diski4Life – a blog about development of South African soccer post World Cup 2010

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