Setting up TV, phone, and internet in South Africa
After you have sorted out your visa, found a house and a job, and settled your children into school, you may be ready for the next step of making your new country home. This may include taking out health insurance and setting up a bank account.
Of course, life without modern means of communication has become unimaginable. South Africa offers a wide range of telecommunications. With so many choices, figuring out which provider to choose when setting up your TV, phone, and internet may be overwhelming.
Do not fret; here is the key information about phone companies in South Africa:
TV, phone and internet
For many years, the state monopolized the telecommunications sector in South Africa. Telkom provided the landline and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) broadcast radio and TV. Both were state-owned enterprises.
Soon after the first democratic elections in 1994, the state sold some of its Telkom shares to extend telephone services to underserved areas and populations. Together with Vodafone, Telkom also launched the first mobile network. That subsidiary has now become Vodacom, whose largest shareholder is Vodafone.
First introduced to the country in 1988, South Africans often went online at work or in Internet cafes; It became privately available only in 1992. Most people didn’t have access until the advent of wireless broadband and mobile internet.
Despite privatization, the current telecom landscape is still dominated (in part) by state-owned companies. However, despite heavy state influence, Freedom House ranked South Africa’s Internet freedom 73 out of 100 based on barriers to access, limitations on content and violations of user rights.
Television (TV) in South Africa.
The SABC owns three of the four main TV channels in South Africa. These include SABC 1, SABC 2 and SABC 3. The fourth major station is the free-to-air channel, eTV, owned by the company eMedia Investments.
There are also regional community stations such as Cape Town TV, Soweto TV, Mpuma Kapa TV and Tshwane TV for more local programming. Other TV channels include paid subscription operator M-Net and local digital satellite providers, including DStv and StarSat.
You will need a valid license to watch TV. The annual fee is R264, but users can pay R28 in monthly installments. Failure to pay may result in penalties.
Despite the threat of heavy fines, over 80% of registered users refuse to pay for public broadcasting. Therefore, in August 2022, the ruling political party, the African National Congress (ANC), proposed that the government replace TV licenses with a TV tax.
South African landline
As everywhere, the popularity of fixed lines is declining. According to the 2022 Statistics South Africa survey, 0.7% of all households used only a landline, 90.3% had only a cell phone and 7.4% used a combination of both.
Currently, semi-privatized Telkom is the only fixed-line provider since its rival Neotel went out of business in 2016. Telkom offers landlines from R209/month, which you can order online. After you complete the purchase, they will ensure that the necessary infrastructure is available and contact you to confirm the installation.
However, many South Africans connect their landlines using VoIP technology rather than using Telkom. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It can convert voice into a digital signal that can travel through an existing Internet connection instead of an analog phone line.
Mobile phones in South Africa
Cell phones are popular in South Africa, and the country is leading the 5G roll-out across the continent.
There are many mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the country, but there are five main mobile phone providers:
- Cell C
- Telkom Mobile
- the rain
You can get a pre-paid SIM card or contract from these providers. As South African contracts require proof of residence and generally do not offer good value for money, 84% of internet in South Africans use pre-paid mobiles.
South Africa uses a closed phone number system. Numbers are 10 digits long and all start with zero.
Fixed line phone numbers
The first three digits of the landline number indicate the area or city. For example, 011 is for Johannesburg, 021 for Cape Town and 031 for Durban.
The seven digits that follow are the unique home or business phone number. For example, the number for the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg is 011 309 4700.
Mobile phone numbers
Traditionally, cell phone numbers did not have an area code but a phone carrier code. The first three to five digits indicate which phone provider people have and usually start with 06, 07 or 08.
For example, phone numbers starting with 072 and 082 were with Vodacom, 073 and 083 were with MTN, and 074 and 084 were with Cell C. Phone numbers starting with 080 are toll-free.
However, since the early 2000s, cell phone users could keep their number when they switched carriers.
When you call from abroad, you may run into some problems dialing the number on file with you. That’s because you must first use your country’s exit code and the country code for internet in South Africa (+27). The exit code notifies your phone service provider that the call is to an international number.
Next, you can skip the first zero of the phone number and dial the rest of the phone number.
For example, the exit code for internet in South Africa is zero, and the country code is 27. The exit code for the Netherlands is 00, and the country code is 31. So call the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg when you are in the Netherlands, the number you dial is 0027 11 309 4700.
Similarly, if you call the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from internet in South Africa, the number is 031 20 570 5200.
Internet in South Africa
In 2020, there were 41.52 million internet users in South Africa, which was 70% of the country’s population. People access the Internet from their mobile devices (58.7%), at work (18.6%), at home (9.1%), or elsewhere (10.7%).
The average download speed on mobile internet is 38,11 Mbps and on fixed broadband, 36,11 Mbps. While that doesn’t sound too bad, it puts the country at 88th on the worldwide broadband speed list.
Home broadband (fibre, (A)DSL, and LTE) internet in South Africa is extremely expensive compared to the rest of the world. In 2022, the cheapest package is R529, while the most expensive is R1,921.75. On average, a home broadband connection costs R1,047/month. Mobile internet is very cheap with an average of R78.50/1GB of data.
South Africa has many options when it comes to internet service providers. Those with the fastest average download speeds are:
How to connect to the Internet in South Africa
Installing internet at your home is easy. Most companies allow you to apply online.
You must provide personal details, such as your name, address, phone number and payment details. Once the provider approves the application, they will arrange for a technician to visit your home to complete the installation.
Connecting to the Internet on your mobile phone is easier. All you have to do is get a pre-paid or contract, and you’re good to go.
Getting a VPN
Investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a good idea. A VPN can help you access the internet anonymously and unblock online content. VPNs available internet in South Africa include:
- Atlas VPN
- CyberGhost VPN
- Express VPN
- Nord VPN
- Vypr VPN
Paying your telecommunication bill
As explained above, telecom services internet in South Africa are offered separately.
TV licenses are issued for one year and can be paid monthly or annually. Payment can be made in person through your banking portal at designated pay points or online.
For phone services, you can choose pre-paid phone or contract. Depending on your preference, you can pay online, using the provider’s app (eg, Telkom), or in person at a kiosk (eg, MTN).
Internet services are usually on a 12-month contract that is auto-debited from your credit card or bank account. However, fixed internet services can also be settled at a bank or post office.
You will receive a penalty when your payments are overdue or unpaid. Further, the provider may cut off your service, default or cancel your contract. Ultimately, the provider will refer your debt to a debt collection lawyer.
If you are struggling to pay your bills, it is best to request help from a debt management company as soon as possible.
If you have any problem with your TV, phone or internet connection you can contact your service provider directly. You can do so by phone, email or through their website. The service provider will often try to resolve the issue over the phone. If necessary, they can send a technician to your home.
In the meantime, you may need to borrow a device from family, friends, neighbors or even your work.
Making a complaint about a service provider
If the provider cannot resolve the issue or you are unhappy with the outcome, you can lodge a complaint with the Independent Communications Authority of internet in South Africa (ICASA). This independent watchdog oversees South Africa’s telecommunications, including internet, TV and mobile phone services.
To begin with, you must file a complaint directly with your service provider. If they do not respond within 14 working days, you can take your case to ICASA. There is a complaint form on the organization’s website, and you should receive a reference number for your case within 48 hours.
An alternative communication platform
VoIP and instant messaging
Many telecom companies offer VoIP packages that access apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Instagram and TikTok. While these are usually general VoIP packages, some providers offer specific access to these communication apps, such as with daily, weekly and monthly WhatsApp bundles.
The exact cost of VoIP access varies by bundle and provider. For example, Telkom’s monthly WhatsApp bundle starts at R40 for 1.5GB, and Vodacom’s hourly WhatsApp bundle is R1/10MB.
Internet cafes in South Africa
Although they are becoming less popular, you can still find some internet cafes internet in South Africa, especially in urban areas. Many of these have been added to existing call-copy-fax shops. Again, prices vary per provider, but you can expect to pay around R5 for 15 minutes of internet access.
To find Internet cafes, you can check the internet in South African Yellow Pages or African Advice.