How Data Bundle Prices in SA Changed Over Five Years

Data bundle pricing has seen volatility over the past few years, with consumers increasingly calling for prices to come down.

A new report from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) compares bundle price fluctuations from SA’s four major operators over the past five years.

ICASA has published its latest “Bi-annual Report on the Analysis of Tariff Notifications”, with the latest data to 30 June 2018. The regulator provides analysis of the price trends between 2013 and 2018 for prepaid data bundles, valid for 30 days, for operators MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom Mobile.

When looking at a 100MB data bundle, the figures reveal pricing was volatile during the period of 2013 to 2017. Vodacom, MTN and Telkom Mobile charged relatively the same rate for 100MB in 2013. However, Cell C charged 50% less when compared to its competitors.

The graph below shows a major spike in 2014 by Vodacom, which increased its 100MB data bundle by 69% from R29 to R49, while its competitors’ prices remained constant. Vodacom then dropped this rate back down to R29 in 2015.

MTN increased its 100MB bundle by 20.7%, from R29 to R35 in 2015, making it relatively expensive when compared to Cell C and Telkom Mobile. Now, in 2018, all four operators charge the same rate of R29.

In 2013, Cell C’s 500MB data bundle, priced at R75, was the cheapest when compared to Vodacom, MTN and Telkom Mobile, which charged R99, R119 and R95, respectively. In 2014, MTN dropped its 500MB by 16.8% from R119 to R99, at the same time Vodacom raised the price of 500MB by 60.6% from R99 to R159. Cell C’s prices remained the cheapest in 2014.

From 2015, Telkom Mobile reduced its price by 27.4% from R95 to R69 and has remained the cheapest in the market to date. Cell C increased its 500MB data bundle by 13.3% from R75 to R85 and Vodacom took its price back down to R99. However, MTN increased its 500MB data bundle by 6.1% from R99 to R105.

In 2018, MTN discontinued its 500MB data bundle in the market, as per the notification filed with ICASA on 11 April. The operator is now instead offering a 600MB bundle at R99, which is 6% lower than the rate of the 500MB data bundle which was priced at R105.

The popular 1GB bundle has also seen some major changes over the years. In 2013, Telkom Mobile charged the highest price for a 1GB data bundle, at R180 per 1GB. Vodacom and MTN charged R149 and Cell C’s 1GB bundle cost R155.

As with the previous bundles, 2014 saw a price spike from Vodacom, which increased its price by 87.2% from R149 to R279. This price was then dropped by Vodacom in 2015 back to R149 and has remained unchanged since.

In 2015, Telkom dramatically reduced its price by 45%, from R180 to R99, and it remained unchanged until 2018, when the price increased by R1 to R100. Vodacom, MTN and Cell C all charge R149 for a 1GB data bundle in 2018.

When getting into the higher GB bundles, Telkom Mobile had by far the highest prices on specific bundles five years ago, whereas today it is considered the cheapest mobile operator by most.

MTN was the cheapest 2GB data bundle charging R245 in 2013, followed by Vodacom at R249. Cell C and Telkom Mobile had the most expensive 2GB data bundle price, charging R310 and R349, respectively.

In 2014, Telkom’s price dropped radically and it has been charging the cheapest price for a 2GB data bundle since then. In 2014, Cell C also dropped its price to R249, where it has stayed since. Vodacom’s price has remained constant over the five years at R249.

ICASA says from 2015 to 2018, 2GB data bundle prices remained relatively stable. In 2018, MTN revised its pricing strategy by discontinuing the 2GB bundle and replaced it with a 1.5GB bundle charged at R189. MTN stated the discontinuation of the 2GB data bundle “was due to commercial reasons”.

When it comes to 3GB data bundles, all four operators have kept their pricing the same over a period of five years.

The below graph shows the operators with the smaller market share were the cheapest when compared to the bigger operators.

For 3GB, MTN has been the most expensive over the five years, charging R330 for a bundle; Vodacom and Cell C have been charging R299 since 2013; and Telkom has been charging R199.

The 5GB bundle prices show the most dramatic changes when it comes to Telkom Mobile’s pricing. In 2013, Telkom charged a whopping R819 for 5GB of data. In 2015, Telkom decreased this drastically to R299.

ICASA says “the action was observed as Telkom Mobile’s strategy to attract customers and increase its market share”. The price for 5GB on Telkom’s network has remained unchanged since.

MTN, Vodacom and Cell C’s prices were stable over the period at R430, R399 and R399, respectively.

The price trend of Vodacom and Telkom Mobile’s 10GB data bundles remained unchanged over a four-year period, at R599 and R499, respectively.

MTN’s 10GB data bundle, however, has been declining since 2016 and is currently the lowest at R405. Cell C increased its 10GB data bundle prices by 9.1% from R549 to R599 between 2016 and 2018.

In 2015, MTN’s 20GB data bundle was the most expensive at R1 250, followed by Cell C, which charged R1 099 and Vodacom at R999. Telkom Mobile had the cheapest bundle offering at R899.

However, MTN reduced its 20GB data bundle by 28.1% from R1 250 in 2017 to R899 in 2018. Cell C also revised its pricing strategy by reducing its 20GB data bundle from R1 099 to R799 in 2017. Telkom’s price came down from R899 in 2017 to R599 in 2018. Vodacom’s 20GB data bundle price has remained unchanged at R999 since 2015.