The grass is slightly greener on the other side

The price of mobile data in South Africa must come down, according to many industry stakeholders.

Most of the focus is on smaller prepaid bundles and out-of-bundle data prices, which can be as high as R1 per megabyte.

Part of the drive to bring down data prices is based on more affordable comparative data products in other countries – but it can be deceiving to look at price alone and draw conclusions.

MyBroadband decided to send me to the United States to test their mobile networks and see how much prepaid data really costs.

I purchased several mobile data products from Verizon Wireless and AT&T – and the prepaid data prices were not cheap.

What also became clear is that the price you see is not the price you get – there are often additional activation charges which accompany a prepaid SIM.

The unlimited plans offered by Verizon Wireless and AT&T look great on paper, but restrictions like no mobile hotspots and strict fair-use-policies limit their attractiveness.

The products I purchased and tested were:

When it was time to pay, however, the price was $20 more than the advertised price – due to activation and other fees.

This means that 6GB of data on AT&T effectively cost me $65 (R806), while 10GB of data on Verizon Wireless cost me $80 (R992).

This is more expensive than in South Africa, but there is a big difference – both these plans come with unlimited voice calls and texts.

They also throw in unlimited calls and texts to certain international countries, and roaming in Mexico and Canada for voice, data, and text.

Prepaid data is therefore not significantly cheaper in the United States than in South Africa, but the overall value which a subscriber receives is more.

The table below provides a comparison of prepaid data products in the United States and South Africa.

Prepaid Data Packages
Operator Verizon Wireless AT&T Vodacom MTN
Prepaid Data 10GB 6GB 10GB 7.5GB
Included Voice Calls Unlimited Unlimited 0 0
Included Text Unlimited Unlimited 0 0
Certain Roaming Included Yes Yes No No
Price R992 R806 R599 R430

Now read: MTN CEO explains why mobile data is so “infernally expensive”

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The grass is slightly greener on the other side