5G in SA is now cheaper than its closest 4G rival – but you have to live in the right place

Business Insider SA
Vodacom Rain
Vodacom vs Rain
  • Vodacom launched its 5G network this week, following the introduction of Rain’s 5G network last year.
  • Prices start from R899 p/m from Vodacom, while Rain offers slightly more expensive uncapped packages.
  • Those prices compares well to 5G's closet rivals, fixed LTE and fibre – and sometimes 5G is even cheaper.
  • But coverage is still limited, so it depends on where you live.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.

Superfast 5G service is now available in various cities across South Africa from two different providers. And if you are thinking of switching from fibre or 4G LTE, our numbers say you can end up saving money, as long as you live in the right spot.

Right now your 5G choices are limited to two networks: Vodacom, and data-only network Rain; for various reasons there’s just not a lot of competition yet.

Even so, 5G is cheaper than you might think. On Vodacom, it's actually R300 per month cheaper than the newest version of 4G called, LTE Advanced (LTE-A). And Rain's uncapped offering is a substantial R500 per month cheaper than an uncapped 4G LTE-A offering from OpenWeb.

Bear in mind that 5G service is only available in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Cape Town. And if you’re in Cape Town, you can only get 5G from Vodacom, where the signal is mainly restricted around Century City. However, coverage in all areas will steadily increase as cellphone towers are upgraded.

5G is the newest iteration of mobile data standards, and is roughly ten times faster than 4G – and a hundred times faster than 3G.

Given enough radio spectrum, it will work at average speeds of 150Mbps to 200Mbps, and peak speeds will reach above 1Gbps. A full HD film will download in around 3 minutes (compared to over 15 minutes on 4G), says Vodacom.

5G will cost you between R699 and R1,799 per month.

On Vodacom customers can sign up for a 5G fixed internet plan, which starts at R899 a month for 100GB anytime data and 100GB "night owl" data (between midnight and 05:00), and that includes a Nokia router. The most expensive plan costs R1,799 a month for 400GB anytime and 400GB "night owl" data, with a Huawei router.

For now, mobile users can get Vodacom's 5G service if they have a LG V50 ThinQ, which will cost R13,499, or R699 a month over 24 months.

Rain has a much simpler price structure, with only two packages. Both are monthly contracts, have unlimited data, and include a Huawei router. For R699 a month, you can get speeds of around 30 Mbps and for R999 a month, you’ll get speeds of around 200Mbps.

To check if you are in a Vodacom 5G coverage area, click here. For Rain coverage, go to its home page and scroll all the way to the bottom.

Those 5G prices compare really well with the competition.

5G is cheaper than Vodacom's own LTE-A package, which costs R1,199 per month for 100GB of anytime data and 100GB of “nite owl” data over 24 months.

However, for the sake of comparison, we’ll only compare 5G fixed internet to more widely available 4G LTE fixed packages. The typical download speeds of 4G LTE connections are between 10Mbps and 30Mbps, but it can theoretically go much faster.

On Afrihost, you can get MTN LTE for R599 per month. This includes the router, 100GB of anytime data and 100GB of “nite owl” data. For R999 you can get 200GB of anytime data and 200GB of “nite owl” data.

That’s the same price as Rain’s fastest uncapped 5G service.

WebAfrica is offering Telkom fixed LTE for R769 per month. This includes the router, 120GB of anytime data, and 120GB of “nite owl” data. For R1,069 you can get the device, 220GB of anytime data and 220GB of “nite owl” data.

A typical fibre line is about 10Mpbs to 20Mbps, although it can go much, much faster – if you’re willing to pay. A 40Mbps fibre line at Telkom costs R1,199 a month, and you will pay R917 a month for a 40Mbps fibre line via Afrihost and Openserve.

The verdict: Rain is a price winner, for now.

If you're looking for bang for your buck, then Rain is a winner at R999 per month for uncapped data. However, fibre is no slouch and will only continue getting faster. Speeds will soon catch up to 5G, so keep in mind that you might be back on a fibre connection a few years down the line.

Vodacom vs Rain price comparison
Vodacom vs Rain price comparison

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