With millions of internet users in the country, South Africa is becoming an increasingly wired nation. And when it comes to connectivity options, the choice ultimately boils down to mobile broadband or ADSL.
In developed nations, the availability of cheap fixed-line internet services mean that most people opt for it. In many developing countries though, mobile broadband has become the connection of choice – with South Africa being no different.
Mobile broadband and ADSL are two different beasts though, providing users with different experiences. So we take a look at the two connectivity options to determine which one is right for your needs.
Mobile broadband has become the most popular connectivity option in South Africa – and for good reason.
The market has heated up ever since Cell C introduced its 2GB and 5GB broadband offerings, with MTN, 8ta and Vodacom all introducing their own products.
Why you'd want it
All you'll need to get onto the internet is a USB modem, SIM card and data plan, with no ADSL or phone line rental costs factored in. As a result, it's much cheaper than ADSL, with Telkom's 384kbps product costing roughly R280 before data costs are included.
Mobile broadband can also be much faster than entry-level ADSL offerings, although it's dependent on your coverage area. For instance, it's possible to get upwards of 3Mbps in an area with good reception. And with network upgrades constantly taking place, users should see a boost in coverage and average speeds.
Mobile broadband has seen significant bandwidth boosts in the past 12 months, from a few hundred megabytes on a contract to 8ta's new 10GB offering. As a result, it's possible to indulge in a few hours of YouTube, Skype and some media downloads before the cap is depleted.
Why it's not for you
While new technology has dropped latency and boosted speeds considerably, the wireless nature means that your connection won't be as reliable and stable as ADSL. While this isn't a problem for most web surfers, online gamers and avid Skype users might want to try before they buy.
The network's coverage area is another bone of contention, with users needing to double-check that they're actually getting adequate coverage. Otherwise, you could be stuck with a 21.1Mbps service that doesn't even hit 1Mbps.
Speaking of 21.1Mbps, users are highly unlikely to ever see that speed, as it's just a theoretical maximum based on test conditions.
The main reason why you wouldn't want mobile broadband however, is due to the relatively meagre bandwidth in comparison to ADSL. While Telkom's ADSL data offerings are nothing to write home about, it's possible to get uncapped accounts from other providers, allowing users to use well over 100GBs per month.
A very small percentage of surfers require this amount of bandwidth, but as streaming video and online services gain popularity, you'll see more people switching.
Mobile broadband deals
Telkom's 8ta offering currently offers the most bang for your buck with their R199/10GBs monthly offering. The offer goes one step further too, giving users an additional 10GBs of night-time bandwidth for R100 extra each month.
Cell C's products aren't too shabby either, with their 2GB, 5GB, 10GB and 20GB products retailing for R149, R299, R499 and R899 per month respectively.
Vodacom has also revealed a few new additions to their mobile data plans, with a 2GB offering retailing for R149 per month. This package also includes an additional 2GBs of Night-Owl bandwidth each month to use between midnight and 5am.
The Night-Owl offering has also been extended to other contract customers as well. For instance, a 1GB subscriber will get an additional 1GB to use at night too.
MTN has also quietly introduced their own products, with a 2GB R149 offering as well as two "uncapped packages". The "uncapped" packages come in Lite (R299) and Pro (R899) flavours, with 3GB and 10GB fair-usage policies respectively.
Page two: ADSL and more!