The cheapest gig of prepaid data? South African mobile networks compared

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With many South Africans now working or studying from home, the cost of data is a major concern.

With Vodacom and now MTN recently having announced price cuts to mobile data as well as the addition of several zero-rated websites and services, now is as good a time as any to compare mobile data prices.

For this comparison we will be looking at the major mobile network operators in South Africa. That is Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Telkom and rain.

We will not be looking at MVNOs as part of this comparison.

What will we be comparing? Good question. As every network structures its data packages differently we will be looking at a 1GB 30-day data bundle as well as any additional services offered by the network for free.

Pricing was sourced directly from the respective network’s websites and is accurate as of 20th March 2020.


While Vodacom has announced changes to the pricing of its data bundles, those bundles are only set to be discounted from 1st April.

As of today then, 1GB of prepaid data will cost you R149.

In terms of free services, you can access Vodacom e-School provides free, zero-rated data access to educational content for Grades R to 12.

The ConnectU platform also provides free access to a job portal, health and wellness information and select government websites.

Wikipedia is also zero-rated and Vodacom is working with tertiary education institutions to zero-rate their platforms.


This morning MTN South Africa announced an up to 50 percent decrease on the price of data but as those prices only come into effect from 15th April we can’t consider them today.

As such, 1GB of prepaid data will cost you R149 from MTN. The same price as Vodacom for those keeping score.

From today MTN South Africa has said that all its customers will be granted 20MB of free data everyday through the Ayoba instant messaging app.

MTN has also zero-rated over 100 educational websites including those of institutions.

Cell C

There’s good news for Cell C subscribers right now. The network is currently hosting a Double Data promotion.

That means that when you purchase 750MB of data you get 1.5GB and an additional 1.5GB Nite data.

As we’re looking at 1GB bundles that means you can pick up 1.5GB of data for just R80. If you really want to go crazy you can pick up 2GB (and 2GB of Nite data) for R100.

As far as free services are concerned Cell C offers Free Basics by Facebook.

These services don’t just include Facebook but news websites, sports news, classifieds, finance and too many more to mention here.


Telkom has today announced sweeping changes to its prepaid bundle offering and there is very good news for subscribers.

The changes include a restructuring of data bundles. In short this means you can no longer purchase a 1GB bundle but rather a 1.5GB bundle.

A 1.5GB bundle from Telkom will now cost you R139.

For that money you get 250MB of streaming data (for video or music) and 250MB of data for WhatsApp (including calling) for free.

Telkom has also zero-rated access to educational websites including websites of tertiary institutions.


As for rain, the service operates differently to other mobile networks in that you pay for what you use rather than paying up front.

At R50 per 1GB of data however, rain is very affordable and you can set a limit to control exactly how much you spend.

That having been said, there does not appear to be any free services available through rain including no zero-rating of any websites or services.

The best value is…

Looking purely at price rain is the clear winner with prices as low as R50 per gigabyte.

However, the mobile network doesn’t appear to offer any free or zero-rated websites.

With that in mind Cell C offers the most value but that of course depends on what you use the internet for.

University students will surely find more value from the likes of Vodacom, MTN and Telkom which have zero-rated several educational websites.

For those just looking to stay connected however, rain is by far the cheapest mobile network with Cell C coming a very close second.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.