The real cost of internet in South Africa in 2016

27 Sep, 2016

Even though infrastructure in South Africa is growing in leaps and bounds, finding an affordable internet connection is still a struggle – which is an issue because reliable internet has become all-important to consumers.

While the emerging infrastructure may not be as well established in SA as in other parts of the world, things are certainly improving as competition heats up – but what’s the real total cost of uncapped ADSL in South Africa?

Depending on who you ask, the answer may vary – not because of the different prices of Internet Services Providers (ISPs), but because of limited access in SA. Until recently, we haven’t been able to get an uncapped ADSL line without installing and renting a fixed line. Luckily, there are better options available today.

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That being said, there are still many costs other than rental and fixed line expenses to consider before deciding to take on an ADSL line in 2016.

Cost of wireless
At first glance, the cost of an internet connection may seem trivial. All you need is a smartphone with a connection to the closest 2G, 3G or LTE connected tower. But the cost of wireless data is still high for most South Africans. For most, using cell phone towers for internet connectivity isn’t viable, even if you’re living in the upper echelons of society.

If you’re not careful, wireless internet connections can cost as much as R2 per megabyte (MB). But there are many ISPs who offer better wireless rates to customers who might not have the infrastructure of fixed line solutions – but individuals shouldn’t have to plan their online lives around these types of connections, if not absolutely necessary.

Cost of ADSL
There’s so much competition in fixed line solutions, you should start paying less and less in urban areas if you’re a fixed line subscriber. If not, communicate with your ISP about what their competition can offer – they’ll be more than obliged to amend your monthly fee.

Your cost of ADSL, however, could be more than expected if you switch. Be extremely careful to read the terms and conditions of your ISP. Throttling and shaping is how uncapped contracts can confuse.

Throttling is the intentional slowing of internet service by an ISP, while shaping is widely used for network traffic engineering, and appears in domestic ISP’s networks as one of several Internet Traffic Management Practices (ITMPs). Some ISPs may use traffic shaping against peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, such as BitTorrent or what they call traffic ‘abusers’.

The other cost to consider is that of a wireless router, the hub used to connect multiple devices to your internet connection. The prices will vary depending on your needs.

Throttling and shaping will play a major role in the price you pay for uncapped internet connections, but it can vary from R99 – R349 per month for a two megabyte per second (Mbps) connection, to R995 – R3 599 per month for a 40Mbps connection.

Cost of Fibre
FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) prices are dropping rapidly in SA. Mostly because more and more ISPs are rolling out the infrastructure to offer the service to a multitude of customers. Not only are internet providers building their own infrastructure, but metros around the country are also investing in the capability to deliver fast internet to communities.

You need to consider the hardware you choose for your connection. Currently options are still relatively limited, as there are only four main fibre providers operating in the country at the moment. This means prices are much more comparable between service providers compared to ADSL. Expect to pay R729 – R999 p/m for a 20Mbps connection, while you’ll find 100Mbps connections ranging between R1 499 and R2 899.

So what’s the real cost of having a reliable and fast internet connection in SA? Fact is, there’s no one real cost. It’s dependent on where you live, how you access the web and what your internet needs are. One common theme to note when choosing, or especially when changing ISPs, is that as infrastructure and availability expands, make sure you barter as much as you can.