South Africa is a country located in the southernmost part of Africa and offers SIM cards at cheap rates. The data plans in particular are generous and affordable. If you are a tourist, getting a local SIM card in South Africa is quite easy as you can find them everywhere. This is unlike most African countries where you need to visit the official outlet of the mobile operator. The network quality is also excellent and extensive. However, do remember that activating a SIM card in South Africa can be a little tricky. You need to register your SIM card through the RICA process, providing your personal information and documents.
The authorized resellers like grocery or convenience stores can also register your SIM card via the RICA process at the time of purchase. There are 4 major telecom operators and 5 MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) offering prepaid services in South Africa. In this article, you will briefly come to know about the top operators one by one. This should be enough for you to decide which SIM card is best suited for you. Without further delay, let’s start looking into them.
Vodacom South Africa is commonly known as Vodacom throughout the country. It is the largest telecom company in South Africa and is mostly owned by Vodafone. It operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies. The provider brings the best and the most extensive coverage along with its main rival, MTN. Its SIM card costs 5 ZAR (South African Rand). Their data-only SIM card is quite expensive, i.e., 149 ZAR in which you get 100 MB of data per month for 12 months.
You can get its SIM cards at international airports in the country as well. However, they are available at exorbitant rates, so it is not recommended to buy them unless there is an emergency. Vodacom top-up vouchers are sold from 5 ZAR to 500 ZAR and are available in the official stores and other retail shops.
The brand is commonly referred to as MTN and is the second-largest telecom company in South Africa. The company is also active in other countries in Africa and the Middle East. MTN operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies. Although its 4G/LTE coverage is quite extensive, 5G is still available in a handful of places as it is still being rolled out in the country at the time of publication.
Its SIM card price starts from 3.5 ZAR in MTN outlets. The independent retailers may set the SIM card price themselves, however, it hardly goes beyond 5 ZAR. Its top-up cards value between 5 ZAR to 180 ZAR. All these top-up vouchers give different validity, i.e., from 20 days to ‘no expiry’.
3. Cell C
Cell C is the third-largest mobile SIM cards provider for South Africa. It has an edge over its competitors due to its low tariff rates. But now the competition for Cell C is even tougher because its rivals have not only lowered the prices but improved the quality and speed of their services as well. It is the host of almost all the MVNOs in the country.
Cell C like its competitors also operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies. It has great coverage in the whole country, especially in populated areas. Though its 4G/LTE has a good network and speed, it still lags compared to its two competitors MTN and Vodacom. The SIM card price is just 1 ZAR, and its top-ups can be found for between 5 ZAR to 500 ZAR in all the official outlets and other resellers across the nation.
Telkom is the smallest major provider of SIM cards in South Africa. It is quite inexpensive compared to its contenders, but it has the worst coverage among all the major 4 players. It has a national roaming agreement with Vodacom South Africa, which allows it to use its 2G and 3G networks wherever necessary. The carrier operates on 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G NR frequencies and has quite decent coverage.
However, as compared to its prominent rivals, its network coverage can be termed as bad. Their SIM cards are known by the name “Telkom More” and “SIM-Sonke” which can be bought for as low as 0.99 ZAR. Telkom More is the default SIM card of the company. The good thing about it is that your airtime doubles every time you recharge it with 5 ZAR or more. However, the latter has lower tariff rates than Telkom More.
Air Mobile is a brand of South African internet service provider named Afrihost. It is an MVNO of MTN South Africa. This means it uses its telecommunications infrastructure to provide services, as it doesn’t own any. You need to buy an MTN SIM card first, which starts from 3.50 ZAR. Later on, you switch it to Air Mobile via the Air Mobile app.
You will get 1 GB of data per month for the starting three months after you sign up for Air Mobile on its app. Do remember, you have to manually claim this benefit on the app, as it doesn’t happen automatically. Its top-ups are valued from 25 ZAR to 1000 ZAR. It offers mobile data bundles too, which are either valid for 30 or 60 days.