While South Africa’s 2G and 3G switch-off programme is stuck in limbo, several retailers are still selling cheap cellphones that use these technologies, with prices starting from R129 for the 2G-enabled Mobicel C1.
The South African government wants to switch off the country’s legacy networks, meaning residents will require 4G-capable devices to communicate.
However, the plan has been in the works for a while and has faced several delays and interruptions.
The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) missed the 30 September 2023 deadline for finalising the next-generation spectrum policy.
It was only approved by cabinet on 1 December 2023.
The delay caused the DCDT to miss its 31 December 2023 deadline for prohibiting new connections or activations of 2G devices — and 2G devices are still readily available from retailers like Ackermans, Pep, and Game.
2G switch-off deadlines still to come include the shutdown of 2G services by 31 March 2024 and the shutdown of 2G networks by 30 June 2024.
The 31 March 2024 date coincides with the deadline for prohibiting licensing new 3G devices in South Africa.
None of these deadlines are likely to be met.
MTN has said it is essential that South African residents are migrated from 2G and 3G devices before the respective services and networks are shut down.
MTN chief of sustainability and corporate affairs, Jacqui O’Sullivan, previously told MyBroadband that the network operator agrees with the plan to shut down these legacy networks.
However, she added that this needs to be managed in a phased approach to migrate users to newer technologies.
MTN also believes that the DCDT doesn’t have priorities in order. O’Sullivan said the 3G shutdown should occur first while leaving a 2G layer to cater for legacy 2G devices, which will take longer to migrate.
Despite the plans to switch off these networks and services in South Africa, retailers like Ackermans, Game, Pep, Bash, and Takealot continue to sell 2G and 3G-enabled devices.
Cheapest cellphones in South Africa
MyBroadband looked for the cheapest cellphones available in the country and found multiple 2G, 3G, and 4G options. However, we limited the number of devices per technology standard to five.
Ackermans sells the cheapest cellphone overall — the Mobicel C1 — for R129. The handset is locked to MTN’s network and features 2G connectivity.
The cheapest 3G device comes from Bash. The online retailer sells the 3G-enabled Mobicel G4 unlocked for R299.
Another affordable option in the 3G category is the Vodacom Vibe. The device is locked to Vodacom’s network, and South African residents can grab it for R399 from Takealot.
Of the devices listed, the most expensive 3G option is the Mobicel Vibe for R549 from Ackermans.
For R30 more, South African residents can grab the 4G-capable Vodacom Kicka 5 Plus from Takealot. As the name implies, the device is locked to Vodacom’s network.
There are several 4G-enabled smartphones available for less than R900.
Some of the cheapest cellphones available in South Africa are listed below. We have specified which network technology each utilises.