SIM shopping shootout – Vodacom vs MTN vs Telkom vs Cell C

Buying and registering a new prepaid SIM in South Africa is a quick and easy process, and mobile networks have streamlined the process to take less than 10 minutes.

All cellphone numbers used in South Africa must be registered according to RICA, which requires you to present your ID and proof of residence upon purchase.

Many mobile networks now also offer the option to order a SIM from their website and have it delivered, completing the RICA process with the courier upon arrival.

Buying a SIM from a physical store is still the quickest option, however, and we opted to test just how fast each major mobile network was at facilitating this type of purchase.

We visited a mall in Centurion which hosted outlets from Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom Mobile and tested the speed at which these stores were able to sell us a new prepaid SIM.

The price of each new SIM purchase was also monitored, and in each case, we chose the cheapest option available.

The results of this test are outlined below.


  • Time – 9 minutes
  • Price – R1

The Vodacom store we entered was empty, and after a short waiting period, we were called to a counter to be assisted.

We provided our documents and the staff member captured all of the relevant information before fetching a new prepaid SIM card.

The staff member inserted the SIM into a feature phone to activate it and record the number, which they wrote on the SIM card packaging.

This purchase was completed in nine minutes and cost us R1.00.

Vodacom Store


  • Time – 5 minutes
  • Price – R10

The MTN store was also empty when we entered it, and we were helped immediately.

After providing our documents, the MTN staff member provided us with a SIM in sealed packaging, stating that it would be activated upon insertion into a smartphone.

It took only five minutes to buy a new prepaid SIM from this MTN store.

However, it was the most expensive transaction, costing us R10.00 for a new prepaid SIM.

MTN Store

Cell C

  • Time – 6 minutes
  • Price – R1

The Cell C store was relatively busy when we entered, but we were lucky in that the customers already at the counters left shortly after we arrived.

We gave our documents to the Cell C staff member, who offered us a basic R1 prepaid SIM and a more expensive R5 SIM with additional data.

We opted for the cheapest SIM purchase, and we were out of the store with a new SIM in sealed packaging within six minutes.

Cell C logo on iPhone


  • Time – 3 minutes
  • Price – Free

Telkom delivered both the quickest and cheapest SIM purchasing experience of the four operators.

Upon arrival in the store, we received a ticket number, which was immediately called out.

We proceeded to the counter and provided our documents, and as we already had an account with Telkom, the documents only needed to be verified for the sale to take place.

The Telkom staff member provided us with a new SIM at no cost and we were out of the store in only three minutes.

Telkom office mockup logo

Now read: Mobile networks must stop relying on money from fraud – Expert

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SIM shopping shootout – Vodacom vs MTN vs Telkom vs Cell C