Buying a SIM card typically requires a user to visit a mobile operator’s store and take their ID and proof of address with them.
The documentation is required to “RICA” the SIM, effectively linking the mobile number to an individual as part of the government’s efforts to regulate the communications sector.
To see how long it takes to buy and RICA a SIM, we visited a shopping mall in Midrand which housed stores of all four of the major mobile operators this week.
Our task was to visit each store, buy a SIM and register it, check it worked in a smartphone, then be on our way.
The process for each store was documented and timed, and our experience is detailed below.
- 10 minutes, 2 seconds
We walked into the Vodacom store at 12:55, where we were the only customers in the shop.
A staff member greeted us and offered to help when we asked for a prepaid SIM.
After requesting the required ID document and proof of address, he processed the SIM purchase and placed it into our smartphone.
The cost for the SIM was R1.00, and the SIM worked as intended.
- 10 minutes, 40 seconds
We entered the MTN store at 13:22, and were again the only customers.
After approaching a staff member and asking for assistance, we were directed to a customer service desk.
We were then asked for ID and proof of address, and if we wanted to perform a SIM swap. We declined and stated we wanted a new SIM and number.
The employee fetched us a SIM and placed it into our phone, after which it was activated. The SIM was R3.50.
- 8 minutes, 58 seconds
We visited the Cell C store at 13:42, where one customer was being assisted.
After being directed to one of the agents, we were asked if we had the relevant RICA documents with us.
The employee then processed our SIM purchase, which cost R1.00, and inserted the SIM into our phone.
He confirmed the SIM was active, and we then left the store.
- Systems offline
Telkom’s store was open and staffed when we walked in at 13:56, and an employee was quick to approach us and ask how he could assist.
When we said we wanted a prepaid SIM, however, the employee said their systems were offline and that they could not sell us one.
At the start of August 2018, MyBroadband reported how Telkom system downtime affected operations across the company, including the ability of its stores to sell SIMs.
Rain does not sell SIMs at physical outlets, and offers products from its online platform.
This includes the delivery of the SIM and the RICA process, and is therefore not comparable to the operators tested above.