Mobile broadband pricing comparison

When 3G services were first launched in South Africa by Vodacom in late 2004, the country compared favorably on price to other international countries which had similar mobile broadband offerings. Competition between Vodacom and MTN, both in terms of technology adoption and broadband pricing, started to intensify which resulted in price cuts exceeding 50% in 2007.

These significant price cuts, up to 61% in the case of Vodacom’s 2 GB data bundle, meant that Vodacom and MTN offered some of the lowest mobile data prices worldwide at that point in time.  Since then local mobile broadband pricing stayed constant while mobile providers worldwide continued to reduce tariffs.

MTN and Vodacom

Many consumers expected Vodacom and MTN to cut their mobile broadband fees early this year, but instead of price cuts both mobile providers opted for value-adds like data rollover.  Out-of-bundle data pricing also stayed more or less the same on all the standard mobile broadband bundles, an area where the cellular providers make a fair amount of their profit.

Vodacom introduced its Broadband Advanced service in April, offering bandwidth rollover, out of bundle rates which are the same as in-bundle rates and downlink speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps.  These are things many Vodacom broadband users have been asking for, but it comes at a significantly higher cost than standard data bundles which casts doubt on the actual value of this offering.

International Vodafone mobile broadband offerings

When comparing Vodacom and MTN’s broadband tariffs with that of Vodafone in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, it quickly becomes clear that South Africa has started to lag behind international pricing norms.    Not only do these countries offer better prices on standard broadband services, but the way they handle out-of-bundle usage is more user friendly. 

In the UK out-of-bundle data is charged at 15 Pounds per Gigabyte.  Vodafone UK gives users the assurance that exceeding their monthly limit will not break the bank:  “And don’t worry if you go over the limit – it’s just £15 for every additional GB you use.”

In Australia Vodafone subscribers enjoy bandwidth rollover, provided that a subscriber recharges within 30 days of connection or their last recharge.  Data usage exceeding your monthly allowance is charged at 65c per MB, around half the price of local out-of-bundle pricing.

New Zealand may have the best system in place to protect consumers against exceeding their monthly usage limit.  Vodafone New Zealand subscribers receive automatic bundle insurance which means that if you “go over your included data allowance, we’ll automatically double your data for just $10 more.  You don’t need to do a thing; we’ll double you data automatically if you need it.”  Should a user exceed their second monthly allowance data is then charged at R 2.57 per MB.

The following table provides an overview of mobile broadband pricing in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.


1 GB Prepaid Broadband Bundle
Company Usage Limit Price Out-of-bundle per MB
Vodacom SA 1 GB 289 1.20
MTN SA 1 GB 289 1.20
Vodafone UK 1 GB 198 198/GB
Vodafone Australia 1 GB 189 N/A
Vodafone New Zealand 1 GB 307 2.57
Mobile Broadband Contract with free modem
Vodacom SA 3 GB 649 1.00
MTN SA 3 GB 649 1.20
Vodafone UK 3 GB 198 198/GB
Vodafone Australia 5 GB 254 0.65
Vodafone New Zealand 3 GB 358 2.57

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Mobile broadband pricing comparison