The best broadband deals: Don’t be a fool!

South Africa is starting to reap the benefits of cheaper, more abundant bandwidth, and while there is still a lot that needs to be done for the country to fall in line with international broadband standards the move has begun.

Over the last few months numerous affordable uncapped ADSL offerings have been launched while per-GB prices plummeted from around R70 per GB to well below R30 per GB.

On the mobile front Vodacom and MTN have dropped their mobile broadband prices while MTN launched the country’s first uncapped 3G/HSDPA service recently.

Not all consumers keep track of the developments in the local broadband arena, and may well sign up for a service which they can get cheaper elsewhere.

Here are some basic guidelines to avoid paying too much for your broadband connection.

ADSL

Most of the price moves in the South African broadband market are related to ADSL rates – both in the uncapped and per-GB capped environments.  The best advice when it comes to an ADSL ISP service is to shop around and never sign a long term contract.

If you are shopping for an uncapped ADSL service, don’t only look at price.  Some of the cheaper uncapped offerings in the market carry very restrictive Fair Use Policies, and the service levels (the speed, stability and reliability) of the different uncapped services can vary significantly.  Make sure you have a look at the recent discussions in the MyBroadband ADSL forums before putting pen to paper.

And if you are still paying R70 per GB on a capped ADSL account you will be well advised to wake up and smell the coffee.  Since late 2009 the per-GB price of capped ADSL accounts dropped to below R30 per GB, and numerous ISPs including Afrihost, Web Africa, Axxess and G-Connect have ADSL services priced at affordable rates.

Mobile

Vodacom recently slashed the price of its Broadband Advanced offerings, undercutting MTN by a small margin.  The new prices however create a strange anomaly:  There is no need to ever purchase a data package of over 2.5 GB. 

The Vodacom Advanced MyGig 2.5 package has an in-bundle and out-of-bundle rate of 18c, exactly the same as Vodacom’s 3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB and 20 GB packages.  It therefore makes absolutely no sense to purchase a data bundle bigger than 2.5 GB as it will only mean you stand to lose money from underutilization – and will not save one cent on higher usage.

Even more foolish will be to purchase a 24 month Broadband Standard contract with the aim of getting a free modem.  All new 24 month Broadband Advanced contracts include free devices, and apart from being cheaper subscribers will also enjoy lower out-of-bundle rates.

As an example the Broadband Standard MyGig 2.3 24 month contract is R 449.00 per month (19c per MB), with an out-of-bundle rate of R1.20 per MB.  The Broadband Advanced MyGig 2 costs R385.00 per month (19c per MB), with an out-of-bundle rate of R0.19 per MB.  Both packages include a free modem.

While Vodacom and MTN’s mobile broadband offerings are similarly priced for standard data bundles (for 24 month contracts which include a modem Vodacom Advanced is much cheaper), Cell C provides no real value proposition when compared to its competitors.

Cell C charges R285.00 for a 1 GB data bundle, with an out-of-bundle rate of R1.20 per MB.  The overall value of this data bundle is worse than what Vodacom and MTN is offering, and since you get EDGE speeds only the most loyal of Cell C customers – or uninformed plebs – will choose Cell C ahead of its competitors for mobile broadband.

Having said this, Cell C is rolling out an HSPA+ network promising speeds of 21 Mbps, a network upgrade which will put it on par with Vodacom and MTN. 

And don’t forget about Telkom when it comes to mobile data.  Telkom Mobile’s network is fast, stable and its per-GB pricing is more competitive than Vodacom, MTN and Cell C.  If you can stomach the laborious Telkom Mobile sign-up process you may find it to be an investment in the long run.

Neotel and iBurst

In the fixed wireless arena iBurst and Neotel are trying to offer an alternative to ADSL, but with the slew of affordable ADSL services which were launched recently neither of these operators have an offering which could really challenge Telkom’s 4 Mbps ADSL service.

Low end broadband consumers may find some of Neotel or iBurst’s offerings more affordable than a full DSL384 package, but bundled ADSL packages from companies like Web Africa and Cybersmart – which include both ADSL access and data charges – provide a compelling value proposition at between R149 and R169 per month.

iBurst’s 2GB data bundle and USB modem package priced at R257 per month does provide a decent alternative to price sensitive consumers or people who can not get access to ADSL. 

WiMax

WiMax has long been touted as an alternative to ADSL, but to date the technology has not made a significant impact on the local broadband market.

iBurst/Vodacom Business, Neotel, Screamer Telecoms and Telkom all have WiMax services, but all offerings are certainly not equal – especially when it comes to price.

Starting at R299 for an all-inclusive 512 Kbps, 5 GB WiMax offering and R360 for 10 GB Screamer Telecoms offers the best value for money, but be sure to test the service for stability and speed in your region before signing a long term contract.

Telkom’s R240 monthly charge for 512 Kbps WiMax access gives users the freedom to use any ADSL data bundle over the service.  This means an uncapped 512 Kbps WiMax service can theoretically be set up for around R500 per month.

Screamer Telecoms and Telkom’s WiMax pricing is significantly lower than that of iBurst/Vodacom Business and Neotel’s offerings, it should be noted that the service levels can vary significantly.  It is therefore advisable to try out the services before you sign up.

Broadband deals << do you have any good advise to newcomers?

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The best broadband deals: Don’t be a fool!