According to RICA, all cellphone numbers used in South Africa must be registered.
To register, a consumer must provide a valid South African ID and proof of residence not older than three months when purchasing a SIM.
Many people may be discouraged by the fact that they have to go into a mobile operator’s shop to complete the RICA process, though.
Buying a SIM
To see how long the process would take, we visited a mall in Centurion which had outlets from all four mobile operators that offer in-store SIM sales.
Our experiences we had when buying prepaid SIMs at each store are detailed below.
- 7 minutes
We entered the Vodacom store at 10:30 on a weekday morning.
No other customers were in the store at the time, but five staff members were on duty at the counters. We approached one of them to ask for a new prepaid SIM.
She said she can assist and we were asked to provide our proof of residence and an ID.
Three more customers entered the shop and were attended to by other staff members while we were being assisted.
After all the necessary information had been captured and linked to the SIM card, the staff member inserted the SIM into our phone.
We paid R1.00 for the prepaid SIM and exited the store at 10:37.
Two minutes later, the SIM card was running on Vodacom’s network.
- 8 minutes
Entering the MTN store at 10:43, we noticed that two customers were already being helped at the counters.
One staff member was open to assist us, and the employee was helpful when we asked for a SIM.
We again provided the ID and proof of residence for capturing.
After finalising the purchase, she inserted the prepaid SIM into our phone.
We paid R3.50 for the SIM and left the store at 10:51 – a total of eight minutes for the entire process.
The phone had to be restarted twice to connect to MTN’s network.
- 7 minutes
When we approached the Cell C shop, at least four customers were being assisted at the counters. This was at 10:55.
After asking for a prepaid SIM, an employee directed us to be seated at an open counter.
She noted that they did not have stock of the base R1 prepaid SIM, but offered a R19 MegaData prepaid SIM which included 100MB data, 10 anytime minutes and 10 network-to-network minutes – all valid for seven days.
We accepted the alternative and the staff member started the RICA process. During this time, several more customers entered the shop and were assisted.
She captured the ID information and confirmed the address as indicated on the proof of residence before finalising the purchase.
She put the SIM card into our phone, which worked after restarting the device.
We left the store at 11:02 – the whole process took seven minutes.
- 12 minutes
Our last stop was at the largest store of all the mobile operators we visited – Telkom.
When we entered at 11:05, an employee approached us and asked how he could help.
After requesting a prepaid SIM, he selected the applicable option on a self-help screen for the ticket-based queue system. Our ticket – number 28 – was the second in line.
The store was also the busiest of all the operators, with at least six customers being helped.
We then waited 5 minutes before our ticket number was called and we were assisted.
The staff member was helpful and completed the process in around the same time as the previous cases. She inserted the SIM, and after a restart it was working.
The SIM card was free and included 5 SMSs.
The whole process was completed in 12 minutes.