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South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Nottingham, United...
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South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

I'm going to South Africa in a month's time, flying to Johannesburg and then going South to Kwazulu Natal. Here I'm staying at a large camp as part of a conservation project. There are no phones or internet available at the camp.

I've spoken to the organizers who recommend a variety of ways to keep in contact with home but my head is now spinning so if anyone who knows what they're talking about could help me out here I'd really appreciate it!

1. Normal sim card. I'm on orange, does anyone know what the coverage for orange would be like? The nearest town to where I am is Hluhluwe but I won't actually have the chance to go into the town.

2. MTN sim card. What exactly is this and how would it make calls easier/cheaper? I am there for a month and would like to be able to call people back in the UK at least a few times but I don't think I could afford orange's rates, which are £1.45 p/m to call and 95p to receive...

3. Web dongle. Ideally, as I am planning to bring my laptop, I will have use of the internet. I have been told that the only way to get internet where I am going is via the use of a web dongle which can only be purchased from Johannesburg airport. Is this true? Roughly how much are they for a month's use? I've seen some people talking about 1Gb of internet, but how much exactly is this? As you can see the web dongle is the option I would prefer but the one I am most clueless on! Also, with the web dongle would I get decent internet connection, good enough to use Skype?

Sorry for the massively long question and I'd really appreciate any advice whatsoever! I basically just want the cheapest option. Thanks again :)

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Cape Town
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1. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Hi Steph

This is a huge question!

First of all do NOT use your UK phone with an Orange SIM on roaming to acess the internet while travelling. When you get back home you will have a bill for hundreds - even thousands of pounds for data access!!!

To use your laptop you need a dongle and a local SIM. Buy the dongle in the UK from Amazon or such or buy one here from an MTN or Vodacom shop - bit more expensive. The SIM is R1 or normally free with a data package. 600Mb once off data package (should be enough for surfing e-mails and a bit of FaceBook - as long as you don't spend all the time on YouTube or downloading videos or music!) is R189 - valid up to two months.

For Voice get a separate SIM for you phone. But make sure th phone is not locked to Orange. Put in a friends SIM from a different UK network - Vodafone, T-Mobile etc. If this works in your phone a South African one will too.

Then rather than go through it all again maybe read a few threads on here about the same subject. The come back and ask specific questions.

tripadvisor.com/…28405421

tripadvisor.com/…32462477

tripadvisor.com/…27661708

There are three local mobile data networks - MTN, Vodacom and CellC - all of which charge about the same for data access. Important that you check with where you are staying which network has the best reception. If you spend money on an MTN SIM and data package and then find Vodacom has far better reception then you've wated your money. From what they are saying it sounds like MTN is better reception but double check!

Edited: 01 June 2011, 11:07
Nottingham, United...
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2. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

tripadvisor.co.uk/…postreply

I know the question was a bit of a beast! Thank you for putting the time into the answer though :)

Okay so... after reading all of the information provided I definately am going to buy/rent a USB wifi dongle. Should the connection work pretty much everywhere?

Would you recommend purchasing one in the UK before I go or at Johannesburg airport? And just to clarify, that's a USB device and a SIM card, but the SIM just carries a data package for however many Megabites of internet you want?

Thanks again, finally starting to get some clarity on what I'm doing!

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Johannesburg
Johannesburg
Greater Johannesburg, South Africa
Cape Town
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3. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

OK just to clarify the technology.

The dongle is simply a USB device which takes a SIM card - just like a moble phone and inputs/outputs the signals into your computer. The SIM card is purchased from the mobile phone provider - MTN, Vodacom or CellC. It is the SAME SIM card you would use for Voice calls. Current SIM cards with at least 64K memory capacity are fine (that's the card capacity for programmes - nothing to do the the data package you buy).

All mobile phone operators broadcast both Voice and Data calls using the same cellphone network. Depending on the location depends on the speed that the data communication works at. All big cities and major towns in SA are currently covered by the 3G/HSPDA high speed data network from one or more supplier. Much of the rest of the country however can only get the older GPRS/EDGE standard speed. And of course unfortunately there are some areas (like in the UK) with signal "blackspots". All modern data dongles automatically switch to the fastest speed that is available.

As I said before if you will be in a more rural area it is important to check with the people you will be staying at which of the main networks has the fastest, strongest signal and buy your SIM for that Network. SIM cards are basically given away, as the mobile phone companies everywhere make money from usage not hardware.

The SIM card that you get will have a phone number - just like your cellphone. When you buy a data package you get nothing actual. The network is simply made aware that your phone number has xMB of data available. Just like buying 100 minutes of voice calls, Pay-as-you-Go. As I say typically 600MB of data should be plenty - costs R189 (Vodacom - MTN very similar).

As I say you can either buy or rent a dongle here. For a month buying is probably a bit more expensive - but you get to keep the dongle for use with another SIM anywhere in the world - or at home.

Alternatively (and maybe a bit cheaper) you can buy one in the UK. Make sure the modem is NOT networked locked (which will be cheaper but no use on a different network!). Look at such as : amazon.co.uk/LM003-USB-HSUPA-Unlocked-Modem/…

Hope that makes it a bit clearer - but maybe not!

Nottingham, United...
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4. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

No no that's loads clearer, thanks ever so much for all of your help! I'm going to email the camp and ask which get the best coverage and then probably buy one from the airport. Thanks again!

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5. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Hi Van_de_Caab,

I've got an Android smartphone and wonder whether there are any flatrate data packages available. It wouldn't need to be max. speed as long as the data is unlimited. Furthermore, it would be excellent if one could use it for texting and calling too. Thank you for your help!

Bangor, United...
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6. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Hi,

Does anybody know which mobile phone network (vodacom or mtn) has the strongest signal on the west coast of South Africa? We will be spending 2 weeks in Lamberts Bay over the Christmas period, and will be bringing a wifi dongle from the uk for our laptop, but have no idea of internet speed of the local service providers. Any help will be appreciated.

MT

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Cape Town
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7. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Here are the Vodacom and MTN coverage maps. for thje whole of South Africa. Zoom into both and you will see that Vodacom seem to have better 3G/HSPDA coverage arounff Lamberts Bay. Neither network has much 3G coverasge outside the town but GPRS/EDGE Coveragge is fine in the whole region. on either network.

As I said earlier, just like in the UK, coverage is extremely specific. It changes over 10 or 20 yards - the front of our house has much better Vodacom 3G coverage than the back! So check with the place that you are staying which network has the best coverage. If they don't know pick Vodacom!

www.vodacom.co.za/personal/main/coveragemaps

www.mtn.co.za/travel/pages/coveragemap.aspx

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Saskatoon, Canada
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8. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

I've been following this discussion with interest because I'm looking at doing something similar - buying a dongle, then buying a data package when I get to SA in order to get email on my laptop. At the risk of complicating things further, if you buy a dongle outside of SA, do you have to check to be sure that it will run on the same GSM frequencies as in SA, which I understand are 900 and 1800. Is there the danger that if you buy the dongle in another country, that it could be for a different frequency? I'm new to this, so I'm not sure whether or not this is a concern.

Bangor, United...
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9. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Hi Robin,

Looks like you were spot on. I went to Vodafone today to see if I could buy a web dongle here and use it in SA, I was told that the dongle would be locked to the service provider, so no. Will have to get one down there.

Good luck.

Cape Town
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10. Re: South Africa internet - web dongle? MTN sim?

Marlene

Lots of unlocked dongles available in the UK. Best are on-line suppliers such as Amazon - amazon.co.uk/Unlocked-Broadband-Dongle-7-2mb…

or - amazon.co.uk/LM003-USB-HSUPA-Unlocked-Modem/…

Can use these with any SIM - including all SA and UK networks.