The cheapest way to make a voice call in South Africa

With the high price of mobile data and call tariffs in South Africa, communicating with loved ones can be an expensive habit to keep.

This is especially true for cellular voice calls, which remain the most expensive form of communication, trumping even video calls conducted over a mobile data connection.

While mobile phone users may have once been limited to these standard calling methods, smartphone owners can take advantage of a variety of applications and communication platforms which dramatically lower costs for everything from texting to calling.

One of the most popular methods for cheaper communications is a WhatsApp voice call, which is a call conducted over a data connection, making it ideal for users connected to Wi-Fi or with a mobile data bundle.

We compared traditional calling methods with those offered by modern platforms to determine how much you can save by switching to data-based calling methods.

Cellular Call

Standard cellular calls from a SIM on one mobile network to a SIM on another are the most expensive way to conduct a phone call.

Below are the per-minute calling rates for the default tariffs across the major mobile operators:

  • Vodacom – R1.53
  • MTN – R1.50
  • Cell C – R1.50
  • Telkom – R1.90

As Rain is a data-only mobile network, its users are not able to place standard calls.

Vodacom MTN smartphones


Telkom still offers fixed-line calling despite the availability of VoIP packages, aiming the offering at users who “just want to make good old-fashioned phone calls”.

According to the company’s current tariff calculator, a standard peak landline call to another landline is priced at around R0.63 per minute.

Calls placed from a landline to a mobile number are priced more aggressively, and will set you back around R1.30 per minute.

This is not much better than the standard call rates for smartphones, with landline users still required to pay for line rental.


VoIP – Mobile Data

Our previous tests showed that WhatsApp, the most popular messaging platform in South Africa, also offers one of the most optimised VoIP services.

Placing or receiving a WhatsApp voice call to or from another user consumes around 400KB of data every minute, which works out cheaper than cellular voice calling, especially if you have a mobile data bundle active.

Below are the results from MyBroadband’s voice calling tests, which show that placing VoIP calls using mobile data is far cheaper than traditional methods.

Operator 1GB Bundle Price per MB Cellular Call – Per minute WhatsApp Call – Per minute
Vodacom R149 R0.15 R1.53 R0.06
MTN R149 R0.15 R1.50 R0.06
Cell C R149 R0.15 R1.50 R0.06
Telkom R99 R0.10 R1.90 R0.04
Rain R50 R0.05 N/A R0.02

Whatsapp on phone in hand

VoIP – Wi-Fi

While placing voice calls over a data connection using WhatsApp is extremely cheap, making WhatsApp calls when connected to Wi-Fi is ideal.

Modern ADSL and fibre connections provide data at much cheaper rates than mobile networks, meaning that your VoIP calls will be orders of magnitude cheaper than when you are using mobile data.

Using the same usage figure of 400KB per minute for WhatsApp voice calls, we calculated that if you were to purchase a 4Mbps 100GB fibre package from Afrihost for R577 per month and used it solely for VoIP calls, you would be paying around R0.002 per minute.

However, it would take you 174 days for you to use up all the data in this way.

Mobile data

Now read: Why you should never have answered a WhatsApp video call from a stranger

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The cheapest way to make a voice call in South Africa