South Africans who have travelled internationally will have experienced the bill shock stemming from inadvertently using data while roaming on foreign networks.
While all of South Africa’s major mobile operators offer their subscribers the ability to use other mobile networks while travelling overseas, the prices of data, voice calls, and SMSs while roaming can be very high.
Nevertheless, frequent travellers may find it cumbersome to have to buy a new SIM card for a particular country they are in and to communicate a new phone number to friends, family members, and colleagues.
Therefore, certain mobile phone users would be on the lookout for the best network for roaming internationally.
To compare the international roaming rates of Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Cell C is not simple, however, since each of these operators offers their services on numerous different networks in each country.
These differences are not small and could easily have significant discrepancies from network to network.
For example, although Telkom offers data roaming rates of R4.14 per MB on Telstra Corporation in Australia, roaming on Vodafone in the same country will cost R368.30 per MB.
Similarly, an MTN customer calling from Canada to South Africa while roaming on Bell Mobility will be charged R2.50 per minute, but switching over to Rogers Communications will push that rate up to R50 per minute.
In addition, operators at times have to renegotiate roaming agreements which could have an impact on pricing, so these rates are subject to changes.
How we compared
To ompare between the roaming rates of the various operators, MyBroadband analysed the data, voice calls, and SMSs roaming prices from each of the mobile networks in 25 countries.
Six of these are neighbouring countries on the continent and the other 19 are popular destinations frequented by South African tourists.
We included the roaming prices on the cheapest networks available in each country for each particular item – data, calls to South Africa, and sending SMSs.
The table below shows how the cheapest rate for each item on the four networks compare.
|Data roaming costs per MB (on cheapest network in given country)|
|Calls to South Africa cost per minute (on cheapest network in given country)|
|Rate per sent SMS (on cheapest network in given country)|
It should be noted that this comparison is not all-encompassing and is merely intended to give a rough indication of the average prices of the cheapest rates on each network in the 25 countries.
In the vast majority of countries, Vodacom customers are charged R5 per MB for mobile data on the cheapest network in that country, whereas MTN customers get a rate of R2.50.
Cell C most regularly charges R10 per MB on its cheapest roaming partners.
Telkom’s roaming data rates varied greatly between countries, going from as low as R1 per MB in Botswana to R14.41 in Mauritius.
On average, MTN was the most affordable at R2.60 per MB, followed by Telkom at R4, Vodacom at R6, and Cell C at R29.32.
The latter’s substantially more expensive rate was primarily due to outlier countries in which the cheapest data roaming rate was over R100.
It should also be noted that Vodacom offers a Travel Saver package at R30 per day, which reduces the price of your roaming rates for data, calls, and SMSs – often by around 50%.
Calls and SMS
When it came to calls to South Africa, MTN was once again the cheapest at R6.70 per minute on average, followed by Vodacom at R9.22.
Telkom and Cell C had similar average prices – coming in at R11.62 and R11.72, respectively.
With regards to outgoing SMSs, Vodacom was the cheapest, followed by Telkom, MTN, and finally Cell C.
Check specific rates
It is advisable to check the specific rates of each operator for various partner networks in the country you are going to visit before making a decision to use data roaming.
Click on your mobile operator below to check exactly what rate you will be charged: