Buyer’s Guide – Best ADSL In South Africa

Buyer’s Guide! Which ISP offers the best ADSL packages in SA? We looked at pricing, speed, value for money and customer service.
Jason
Snyman
Published: Sunday, May 27th 2018
General
South Africans have awoken to fibre-fever, as if it suddenly happened overnight. ADSL, though, the poor forgotten child, is still growing. According to ICASA’s most recent State of the ICT Sector report, DSL subscriptions increased by 36.7% last year. Of course, these numbers have nothing on the monstrous growth of fibre, but the problem remains that fibre just isn’t as widely available yet. So, for those who still need ADSL, who have no other choice, we put together a list of the best ISPs and packages. Of course, what constitutes as the best ADSL for you could depend on a number of factors. Value for money, network quality and speed, your budget, service received from the company, etc. It has to be mentioned that dealing with Telkom is an absolute nightmare – the company is beyond pathetic. A handful of ISP’s out there aren’t much better. This is one of the major negative points when trying to get ADSL. In many cases – you’ll have to put up with the gross incompetence of two companies. There are, however, a handful of companies who really shine. Sigh. Let’s get started. Firstly, what do you need to know about ADSL?
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ADSL Billing Is A Real Kick To The Shins

ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) broadband is essentially billed at three levels. Many people don’t know this, and it is one of the main reasons that most people are opting for faster, cheaper fibre connections instead. The other being that with ADSL – there’s simply no getting away from Telkom. This billing is also excluding any line installation fees or router costs you may have to pay up front – depending on the internet service provider. Some ISPs will include the router free of charge. These three levels can be itemized as such:
  • The data (capped or uncapped) amount;
  • The rental of the DSL internet line;
  • The Telkom telephone line – currently priced at R200.74 p/m.
You will then be billed according to the package you have chosen. This package will consist of how much data you get to use every month and the speed at which that data is transferred. We’ll elaborate on that.

What You Need To Take Into Account

There are many things to look into when shopping around for ADSL. First off, let’s explain some of the terms you’ll no doubt come across when dealing with ISPs. Let’s start there. An ISP – Internet Service Provider – is exactly that. A company such as Afrihost, Mweb or Telkom which offers data packages to clients. All of these companies will use Telkom analogue phone lines and DSL internet lines in order to connect you. First thing you’re looking for is the speed of the connection. Commonly, 4mbps, 10mbps, 20mbps, etc. These are the line speeds, which dictate how much data can be transferred per second. The faster the line, the faster your internet will be – and the more expensive. You’re paying for access to these lines. Next, you’re looking at the amount of data you will have access to. You get uncapped packages – which means you can use the internet all you want, and capped packages – which will only allow you to use up to a certain amount of data. Pretty much the same way mobile data bundles work. You may have also heard of VDSL - Very High Bitrate Digital Subscriber Line – which is essentially an improved version of ADSL. Many ISPs will use a combination of these to deliver the best possible DSL internet experience.
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Shaped / Unshaped Explained

Another factor to consider is whether or not the ISP throttles the connection. You need to find out if the provider has a Fair Usage Limit in place, and what that limit is. This is to say, is the connection shaped or unshaped, metered or unmetered? What is the Fair Usage Limit? Let’s explain this in the simplest terms. Sometimes, people select a package that is way too small for the amount of internet they use. The ISP is then forced to throttle the speed of that person’s line, in order to give everybody else fair use. Most lower-tier packages are metered. This means that once you have exceeded your fair usage limit for the month – the speed of your connection will be much slower. So, if you’re a heavy internet user, it is better to opt for a larger, more expensive, unmetered connection. Those who do a lot of downloading, online business or online gaming will need to do this. Some ISPs do not shape or throttle their services – but these are few and far between. The best bet, when deciding on an ISP, is to ask them for more details on this.

Our Favourite Uncapped ADSL Packages

We had a look at nine ISPs. These are the most widely-spread, well-known internet service providers in South Africa.  The ISPs are listed in the table below, in alphabetical order. We’ve then listed their prices on 4MBps, 8MBps, 10MBps, 20MBps and 40MBps speed lines. These prices are data and DSL line inclusive – but do not include the monthly Telkom amount of R200. Only Home packages have been listed. Some ISPs offer ADSL packages catered to Businesses as well – which are usually faster, unmetered and able to sustain more users. Other ISPs offer Standard Home packages and Premium Home packages. We have listed both where applicable. All prices were sourced from the companies themselves or, where we received no response, from their websites. Lastly, in many cases the faster line speeds (20MBps or 40MBps) are only available through VDSL – subject to availability in your area. The packages offering the best value for money, in our opinion, are highlighted. But it all depends on what you want to do. In our opinion, AXXESS offered the most competitive prices and the best value for money throughout. It is worth noting that Telkom deals include a free router, free installation and free mobile data. This is a pretty good deal.  

Our Favourite Capped ADSL Packages

It is difficult to determine which capped ADSL package is best. We based our table on the average 200GB – 300GB monthly cap. Some ISPs only offer 300GB on faster lines, though, others 300GB throughout and some 250GB. In the end, we made our recommendations based on the best value for money you’ll get per 200GB – in which case MWEB completely cleaned house with their competitive prices. It is certainly worth mentioning that many of the ISPs also offer promotions and special deals on a regular basis – so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them.  At the time of writing, MWEB is running a pretty spectacular double your data deal. All of the ISPs on our list offer free data to capped internet users after midnight, every single day. Axxess, MWEB, OpenWeb, Vox and WebAfrica offer free data between midnight and 6am. Afrihost and Crystal Web between midnight and 8am. Cybersmart and Telkom between midnight and 7am. These prices are data and DSL line inclusive – but do not include the monthly Telkom amount of R200.  

Customer Satisfaction

In the table below, we compiled recent customer satisfaction ratings from the latest My Broadband survey, Hello Peter and a combo of Glassdoor and Google review ratings. Service is important. We contacted ten companies – both as CompareGuru and as a prospective customer – in order to gather information on prices. One of them – which also appears near the bottom of My Broadband’s latest customer satisfaction report – was completely cut from our list. The level of service this company offered was non-existent. Our own experience in dealing with this ISP was so bad that we could not in good conscience endorse them in any way whatsoever. As far as our own experience with the ISPs went, Crystal Web and AXXESS emerged on top – by a mile. These companies delivered fast, friendly and informative assistance. The absolute worst service we received was, unsurprisingly, from Telkom. Through every conceivable channel of communication, they failed quite horribly at providing any semblance of customer service. ADSL is, mercifully, on its way out. For those who do not have access to fibre yet, and have to get DSL in order to access the internet, you may as well go with the best that you can get.