ADSL vs Mobile broadband prices in SA

There are cases where mobile broadband can be cheaper and faster than DSL in South Africa. At what point is DSL worth it?

July 23, 2014
DSL cut cord

If you get a stand-alone ADSL service from Telkom you have to a pay a minimum monthly subscription of R331.50 before you can download a single megabyte of data.

The cost of an ADSL subscription from a consumer perspective can be broken into three categories: ADSL access, ADSL account, and phone line rental.

But what if you don’t want a landline phone?

Tough. If you want ADSL, you’ll be paying Telkom for the phone line as well.

The monthly fee for that phone line is set to increase to R166.50 per month on 1 August 2014 (up from R157).

Telkom has been asked on many occasions why it doesn’t split its telephone and broadband services to offer so-called “naked ADSL”, to which the company usually responds with an explanation of what it calls its “access line deficit”.

In essence, Telkom says that it actually makes a loss on phone line rentals, which it needs to make up through its other fees (and, by implication, through forcing ADSL subscribers to also pay the phone line rental fee).

The base price of ADSL

What this means is that the R331.50 price mentioned at the start of this article includes 2 Megabit per second (Mbps) ADSL access for R165 per month, and analogue telephone line rental for R166.50 per month.

Some Internet service providers offer slightly cheaper ADSL access fees, but none of the discounts available are large enough to bring your total monthly subscription for a basic ADSL service to under R300 per month.

This goes up to over R400 per month if you want a 4Mbps ADSL service.

Compare this to Telkom Mobile’s Go 10Gigs Big promotion, where you can get 10GB of data to use on their 3G network (with an additional 10GB of “midnight data”) for R299 per month.

ADSL vs 3G in South Africa

The graph and table below show how mobile broadband prices compare to 2Mbps and 4Mbps ADSL access fees, to see at what point it becomes worthwhile to invest in a DSL connection.

ADSL prices are highlighted to set them apart from the mobile broadband prices.

2Mbps, 4Mbps ADSL base prices versus mobile broadband

2Mbps, 4Mbps ADSL base prices versus mobile broadband

Broadband package Monthly price Data Month-to-month Package price Additional monthly fee
Cell C Giga 20 R189 5GB + 15GB midnight data No (12 month contract) R189 R0
MTN 4GB prepaid promo R245 4GB Yes R245 R0
Telkom Mobile 7.5GB Promo * R249 7.5GB Yes R249 R0
Cell C 60GB Smartdata R250 5GB No (12 month prepaid) R2,999 R0
Vodacom 5GB contract R259 5GB No (24 month contract) R259 R0
Afrihost Mobile Five R297 10GB Yes R297 R0
MTN 5GB contract R299 5GB + 5GB midnight data No (24 month contract) R299 R0
Telkom Mobile Go 10Gigs Big * R299 10GB + 10GB midnight data No (24 month contract) R299 R0
2Mbps access R332 0GB Yes R165 R166.50
Web Africa 2Mbps 5GB bundle R356 5GB + 5GB midnight data Yes R189 R166.50
Telkom do Basic ADSL bundle R386 10GB (softcap) Yes R219 R166.50
Web Africa 2Mbps 15GB bundle R396 15GB + 15GB midnight data Yes R229 R166.50
Afrihost Mobile Seven R397 14GB Yes R397 R0
Telkom Mobile 15GB Promo * R399 15GB Yes R399 R0
4Mbps access R466 0GB Yes R299 R166.50
Telkom Internet 20GB softcap + 2Mbps ADSL R481 20GB Yes R314 R166.50
Afrihost 2Mbps 50 + 50GB bundle R495 100GB Yes R328 R166.50
Afrihost Mobile Ten R497 20GB Yes R497 R0
MTN 9GB contract R499 9GB + 9GB midnight data No (24 month contract) R499 R0
Cell C 10GB Smartdata R499 10GB No (12/24 month contract) R499 R0
Vodacom 10GB contract R499 10GB No (24 month contract) R499 R0
Cell C 20GB data contract R999 20GB No (12/24 month contract) R999 R0
Vodacom 20GB contract R999 20GB + 20GB midnight data No (24 month contract) R999 R0
* Limited to Telkom Mobile’s own radio network only (i.e. not while roaming on MTN)

Disregarding once-off costs such as modems, as well as installation and SIM activation fees, the above graph and table indicate that ADSL only becomes cost-effective when you consume a half-decent amount of data every month.

If all you need is 15GB or less and you’re in a Telkom Mobile coverage area, you may be better off with one of their promotional offerings such as the Go 10Gigs Big 24 month contract, or the 15GB SmartInternet Promo.

Even the non-promotional 5GB contracts from Cell C, MTN, and Vodacom cost less than a 2Mbps+5GB ADSL bundle would cost.

Afrihost’s mobile data deals also offer great value for money compared to ADSL, especially if you consider that they are available on a month-to-month basis, much like ADSL.

One concern about wireless broadband (including mobile broadband) in general is that your connection and data throughput may not be as stable as a fixed-line connection.

While 3G speeds are not always as predictable as ADSL, the MyBroadband Speed Test site shows that Telkom Mobile’s average download speeds are around 3.2Mbps.

Under the right circumstances, 3G speeds can be in excess of 10Mbps.

That said, even if 3G speeds are not a worry in your area, one place where ADSL shines is in high-usage situations.

If you need more than 15GB per month, or an uncapped connection, mobile prices still can’t hold a candle to ADSL.

Telkom’s new prices unveiled

Your new ADSL bill from 1 August 2014

Telkom line rental price increase

New Telkom ADSL prices

Afrihost mobile data promotion: good and bad news

Tags: Afrihost, Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), Cell C, Headline, MTN, Telkom, Telkom Internet, Telkom Mobile, Vodacom, Web Africa

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