Joburg Expat: I Finally Have Uncapped Internet

August 18, 2011

I Finally Have Uncapped Internet

I've actually been wanting to write about this for a while. I had almost forgotten what a pain it once was to always have to monitor our internet use, until I recently talked to a newcomer who doesn't have any internet at all (or, rather, has to perch precariously on her windowsill in the one place of her house where she can poach the neighbor's internet, just to download emails).

When we  moved here, we had signed up for Telkom's internet service, not really knowing what else was out there. Telkom has a 9 gigabyte monthly cap on their internet service, and let me tell you, it is not enough. At least for a family of 6 people that includes (soon) two teenagers. We  have friends who looked at us incredulously for even attempting to make do with 9 gigabytes. Most people back home probably don't even know their usage because they've never had to deal with a cap.

I had signed up for weekly reports and notifications once we reached 80% of our alloted share, but somehow that never quite worked. Every month I was absolutely startled when the internet stopped working around the 23rd of the month, and I'd turn routers on and off and reboot with a fury, until it would dawn on me that once again we'd reached our cap. Invariably I'd have a very important email sitting in my outbox, or some crucial internet banking transaction to make, and I'd spend my day trying to purchase topup gigabytes, which is possible but cumbersome (you can read of my topup trials and tribulations under "A Typical Day in South Africa - Take Two").

I might have originally recommended MWEB to you as an alternative to Telkom, but when we finally had enough of the cap business and decided to purchase uncapped internet, the best alternative turned out to be Afrihost. They don't make you sign any contract (i.e. you're free to cancel month to month), their service from what I've heard so far is excellent, and they are affordable. We now pay an additional R497 per month for our uncapped service (at 4096 kbps - slow, I know, but the fastest you can get around here), and I (or rather Noisette - remember I have no authority at Telkom whatsoever as I'm not the account holder) was also able to get a R200 or so monthly credit from Telkom when we canceled the 9 gig service. So around R300 net for the peace of mind to never run out was worth it for us.

Afrihost actually has a promotion at the moment where you can get the first month for R1, but it is first come first serve and I'm not sure if it's still available. In any case, it's worth checking out if you're looking for uncapped internet.

19 comments :

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

Oh, the joys and miseries of Internet access! You don't know how good it is to have unlimited all-day access until you don't anymore, and the hassles of figuring it out in a foreign country are sometimes a job all its own.

If you manage to get it, the next step might be to get a VPN address and you can get the stuff they tell you you cannot get because "it appears you are not in the US." (Because of license restrictions.)

Good luck!

Sine said...

Aha! I never even get "it appears you are not in the US". I only ever get "webpage not available" and it took me awhile to figure out that it was due to some kind of restriction. It is the weirdest websites that are off limits, like our local library in Overland Park or Pottery Barn. So how do I get a VPN address????

Martina said...

I have been tearing my hair out with worry about this. My life is on the internet, and I expect increasingly so when I live in SA. Thanks for the helpful post!

Now, can you do an iphone post please?! There is literally no information out there and I am scared that it is too expensive to have one. I use 1Gig a month on my phone and have heard rumours that a "heavy" user in SA uses 300mb!!! I wonder if I should buy a handset in the UK and bring it, or if a regular contract with phone over there is in fact affordable!

Thanks :-)

Familjen Lundqvist said...

Hi Sine,
Being in IT I managed to not fall into this trap.

I bought uncapped from axess, whith which I am very pleased. It is uncapped, 4096 for 496 Rand per month.
I am sharing their link aswell, and then people with have two excellent choises :)

http://www.axxess.co.za/internet.php

BR MAlin

Sine said...

Thanks for sharing, Malin!

Martina - just type "iphone" into the search box on my blog and you will see that I've written about it extensively, or try these links: http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com/2011/03/i-finally-got-my-iphone-working-in.html and http://joburgexpat.blogspot.com/2010/07/will-my-iphone-work-in-south-africa.html.

To answer your question about price - the iphone itself I think is around R3500. Or if you buy it with a 2year contract (I used Vodacom as an example) you could get it for R754/month, giving you 100 SMS and 250 meg data, and then you could get the "my gig" data bundle for another R249/month. Honestly, as much as I like the iphone, I would go with a blackberry in South Africa. It's about R2000 and for just R59/month you get free browsing and BBM, you could add that to a cheap talk plan (starting at R49). Just google Vodacom or MTN or Cell C (though I think Vodacom hast the best coverage and the prices are similar) for more info.

Hope that helps!

Sine said...

Martina - one more thing. What I wrote about jailbreaking probably doesn't apply anymore, at least in the US you now get iphones that allow different carriers than AT&T and it's probably similar in the UK, so you should be ok buying a phone there and bringing it here. But I would do more research first to make sure that's true.

Avril said...

Wow - 9gb for your family! In 2009, I worked in an office in Cape Town and our cap was 1gb for the month .. we were almost 30 people in the office! Fun times.

Sine said...

Haha! See, it all depends on your perspective. If you come from anywhere else in the world, 9gb for one family is not enough. It actually would be for 5 of us, but the one watching his YouTube videos kept busting the budget...

Martina said...

Thanks Sine - I will be heartbroken without my iphone but am way too cheap to spend that much a month! hehe.

I will bring my handset with me and see if I can magic up any sim only deals. If not, back to blackberry (sulkily) I shall go

Sine said...

Yes, I would do that, maybe you will have an easier time understanding all these plans than I did when I came. Just remember to start from the bottom up, i.e. get small bundles, then up them if you need, because you can't step down again. Or maybe you just want to get a top-up plan and not a 2-year contract. I have a feeling you'll end up with a Blackberry, it's just so much of a better deal. Good luck with your move!!

Bing said...

Ahhh.. internet.. Isn't this MY favourite topic in South Africa? =)

I can't manage with 4mbps speed. It's just not fast enough for the stuff I do online. *wink* Uncapped internet would end up being meaningless to me if the speed isn't fast enough for me to do enough that would "break a cap".

Cell C promises 21mbps speed. I get average 10 to 11mbps now. But they don't have a signal everywhere.

Regarding iPhone use.. Martina, if you are still reading this.. this is how I do it as a rather heavy user - my iPhone is from Singapore (unlocked). I buy a prepaid SIM card from Vodacom. I buy airtime and data time. There are different prices for different amount of data time. I usually top up 300mb at one time and it costs R139 per 300mb. I use about 500mb a month. At home, I connect via Wifi using my home internet. You won't use 1GB of data here on your phone. The connection speed and stability isn't strong enough to let you do that much. Haha.. My husband has a BB and you would have to kill me to get me to switch my iPhone for a BB. iPhone rocks! Heehee...

I'm in Singapore now.. and am back to excellent internet connection. It's amazing how I took connection totally for granted in the past. =p

P/S. Sine, I miss you!! =)

Sine said...

Bing, thanks for sharing, that's great info. I should have thought of you in the first place and hooked you up with Martina. Just one question: How do you even measure the mbps rate you're getting? And then for your home internet on Cell C, what cap do you have?

Miss you too, sounds like you're having fun in S'pore.

Bing said...

I measure internet speed using this -
http://speedtest.net/

Just click on Begin Test.

I just did one - http://www.speedtest.net/result/1444128672.png

I burst out laughing. I'm using internet that's paid by the day and supposedly has the slowest internet connection in the country and it was still 16mbps speed. Haha!

I bought lots of data for my Cell C connection. I have 25GB per month for a year. I have one dongle stick and uses a wireless router to connect it so that everyone at home gets connection from one dongle stick. My average monthly outlay is approximately R1000. =)

Sine said...

LOL, that's really funny, especially since I just did mine and it was 3.41 mbps. You don't even want to know about the upload speed. Those folks in Singapore just don't know how good they have it! But you know what, I still wouldn't want to miss living here. Makes you become so much more relaxed in these things...

Anonymous said...

Vodacom caps at 100mb now on R59 bundle, can browse but can't download, mtn or cell c! :)

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W. A. Jeffrey said...

Researching internet in SA has been quite a task in and of itself. Amazing though how much has changed since 2011. The tech world moves at lightning speed these days. Telkom now offers uncapped and stated service between ISP's are pretty comparable but prices and extras are different. What amazed me was the break between line provider and ISP. Typically in the USA the ISP and line provider are the same. Outside the big cities you pretty much have to move if you want a different provider.

From what I am told, though, is that uncapped internet is slower than capped as you face shaping and throttling (even when they claim you don't) because capped gets priority. Opinions vary on this as I have mentioned before. Cruising SA ISP review forums you can find almost as much hate as love for any particular ISP.

Sine said...

You could spend forever with the research no doubt. All I know is that I was fairly happy once we switched to Afrihost, due to customer service. As for speed, yes it was slow. That was the problem of the line to our house. Maybe one day Google Fiber will arrive in SA, one can hope.

That said, the internet here in the US is capped too. At least with Comcast, who is fast replacing Eskom as my love-to-hate utility. Granted, the cap is high, at 300 gig per month, but somehow our family of 4 teenagers manages to top that every month. Netflix is the culprit. In SA we watched all our movies as either DVDs from Chaplins, a lovely blockbuster type store in the Valley Shopping Center 2 min from our house, or we watched shows via DVR on Multichoice. It all worked well as long as you were happy with SA programming. Now we have all these issues with our monthly cap, and sometimes I would prefer to go back to the simplicity in SA, even though the internet was so slow. It worked well enough for my blog, that's all I cared about.

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