South Africa’s uncapped fibre prices — 2014 to 2021

South Africa’s uncapped home fibre prices have come down by as much as 85% since the early days of the service in the country.

While fibre has been used in the networks of telecoms providers like Telkom as far back as 2007, a pivotal moment in the rollout of fibre-to-the-home was when Vumatel’s network went live in Parkhurst in October 2014.

Vumatel offered wholesale packages to Internet service providers (ISPs) with download speeds ranging from 4Mbps to 100Mbps.

Until Vumatel’s launch, South Africans had few options for fixed-line Internet outside of relatively expensive copper-based digital subscriber line (DSL) connectivity on Telkom’s network.

ISPs on Vumatel’s network — which included Cool Ideas, Mweb, Webafrica, Cybersmart, and Vox Telecom — generally offered their Vumatel fibre packages at much cheaper prices than they could achieve on Telkom’s DSL solutions.

For example, an entry-level 4Mbps fibre line from Cool Ideas on the Vumatel network was priced at R399 per month, while a 4Mbps DSL connection from Telkom cost R751.50.

Things were even bleaker for Telkom at the higher end of the spectrum. Telkom’s fastest consumer offering was a 40Mbps VDSL connection at R2,760.50 per month, compared to a 50Mbps Vumatel fibre package from Cybersmart priced at R1,299.

Vumatel ground breaking
Vumatel ground-breaking in Parkhurst.

After conducting its own trials for fibre technology, Telkom followed Vumatel by launching its first home fibre packages in December 2014.

Only three packages were available at the time,  all of which were capped and more expensive than Vumatel’s packages.

During the course of the next year, uncapped fibre started to gain momentum, and in the next few years, fibre rollouts picked up the pace.

Today there are multiple fibre network operators vying for their share of the pie, including Vumatel, Openserve (Telkom’s rebranded wholesale division), Frogfoot, Octotel, Metrofibre, Vodacom, and Supersonic.

Fibre prices have gradually come down, but with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, some drastic changes occurred in the market.

Many fibre network operators increased customers’ line speeds free of charge as part of temporary interventions to help people work and attend classes from home.

Several of the fibre network operators extended their offers, while others made them permanent.

After Openserve announced substantial speed increases and price cuts on its product line-up earlier this year, other major operators followed and the per-Mbps price is now lower than ever.

Openserve infrastructure
Openserve cabinet

To show how significant the reductions have been, we compared the prices of Vumatel’s fibre packages today with 2014.

For the most accurate reflection, we only compared the symmetric Vumatel packages which are still available.

In its latest product refresh, Vumatel completely scrapped the 10Mbps line, while its 20Mbps is now the entry-level and only comes in an asymmetric package with 10Mbps upload speed

The 50Mbps and 100Mbps packagers were therefore the only ones we could directly compare.

The first uncapped 50Mbps home fibre packages from Cool Ideas on Vumatel’s network were priced at R3,298 per month in 2014.

This is a far cry from the R845 you will now pay for the same package on Cell C, about 74% cheaper than at launch.

Cool Ideas also offered a 100Mbps package at R6,599 in 2014. This currently costs R989 from Cybersmart, a reduction of 85%.

A direct comparison between only Cool Ideas’ packages would yield similar results — its 50Mbps package is now priced at R929 per month, while its 100Mbps service is R1,099 per month.

The table below shows how prices for fibre-to-the-home packages on Vumatel’s network have dropped from 2014 to 2021.

Uncapped Vumatel fibre packages in South Africa 2015 vs 2021 — 20Mbps to 200Mbps
Year of availability ISP Download speed Upload speed Price per month
2014 Cool Ideas 50Mbps 50Mbps R3,298
2021 Cell C 50Mbps 50Mbps R845
Price change per Mbps -74%
2014 Cool Ideas 100Mbps 100Mbps R6,599
2021 Cybersmart 100Mbps 100Mbps R989
Price change per Mbps -85%

Now read: Fibre price war — Vumatel and Octotel join the fight

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South Africa’s uncapped fibre prices — 2014 to 2021