Finding the best data deal can be a little intimidating. The local mobile networks have either got a lot of different tariffs or simply confusing layouts for their online systems, all of which makes it confusing for the average person who really just wants the best possible deal for their money.

To make things easier, we have compiled the information below. More importantly, the data will be updated as time passes. When Vodacom reviews pricing, or Cell C releases a new bundle, we’ll revise this information and repost it. So bookmark this page, and check in whenever you need a mega price for a gigabyte.

The format may also change over time, as tariffs evolve. Currently we thought it best to list the cheapest contract on offer at a provider, and then the best value contract based on how many gigabytes you get for your hard earned cash. The latter isn’t simply a case of taking the bundle that has the most bandwidth – nobody wants to pay R999 every month for 20GB of data, but it’s great that the option does exist for those months you do need it.

Where possible and applicable we have also listed out-of-bundle rates. We’d also be remiss if we did not mention LTE support: currently Cell C is the only network with no public LTE. The other three will let you use your data at LTE speeds.

As is obvious from the numbers, now, Cell C has some of the most attractive offerings, in terms of value. This has seen the network attract a lot of new subscribers in the last 12 months, but that brings with it a new set of problems. The influx of new subscribers taking advantage of cheap data means that the experience on the network has degraded. Cell C is in the process of upgrading its network by adding more cell sites, and as that rolls out it should be able to support the load.

The best would be to test reception and speeds in your area before committing to a contract.

Any questions? Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Cell C

Cheapest contract: R39/month – 500MB

If all you need is mobile data for when you’re not at home, on wireless, this will do fine. For less about the price of a hamburger you can have 500MB of convenience. This can be had as either a 12- or 24-month contract.  As with all Cell C bundles, the out-of-bundle rate is a very reasonable 15c per MB.

Best value contract: R189/month – 20GB

As part of Cell C’s Giga promotion you can get this 20GB bundle for an unbeatable price. There is a catch, though: only 5GB is available for regular use, while the remaining 15GB can only be used between midnight and 6am. Great for running downloads while you sleep, though. This is a 24-month contract.

Cheapest prepaid: R399 – 3GB

Cell C has a unique approach to its prepaid data. It sells SIM cards with data that is valid for 365 days. How and when you use it is up to you. 3GB for R399 is far from a bargain when compared to the above rates, but you have the flexibility of a whole year to use it.

Best value prepaid: R1 799 – 200GB

Another one of Cell C’s combo bundles: 50GB of regular data, and 150GB to use between midnight and 6am. R1 800 is a lot to cough up, but data is valid for a year, so it works out to about R150 and 16.5GB per month.

MTN

Cheapest contract: R49/month – 500MB

The cheap of all MTN’s data bundles is this one, for the price of a cheap pizza. Again, useful for those who want occasional data access while on the go, but have ADSL at home. 24 month contract, only.

Best value contract: R299/month – 5GB

MTN’s got a promotion where you can get 3GB of data for R299 a month, and they’ll throw in another 2GB to sweeten the deal. That’s what this is: 5GB, for 24 months, at R299 a month. But this promotional pricing ends on the 30th of November. Get one before then if you want to keep paying that price.

Cheapest prepaid: R10 – 10MB

This will be next to useless for smartphone owners, since 10MB gets used up by the time you’ve signed into your Google account on an Android device. For a USB modem, it’s even more pointless. Simply here because it is the cheapest product MTN offers. Out of bundle rate is R1 per MB.

Best value prepaid: R245 – 2GB

A more reasonable 2GB will cost prepaid owners a less-than-wallet-pleasing R245, but you’ll get a bandwidth allowance that is useful for browsing and email. Out of bundle rates are 19c per MB. MTN’s site says that this is per month, which should not be applicable to prepaid users, and doesn’t indicate how long unused data remains valid.

Telkom Mobile

Best value contract: R299/month – 20GB

Lacking any other contract options, Telkom Mobile’s 20GB bundle is the best value it offers. R299 a month for 24 months gets you 10GB of regular data, and another 10GB to be used between 11pm and 5am. Again, perfect for system updates and downloads without eating into your regular browsing allowance.

Cheapest prepaid: R38 – 250MB

Telkom Mobile’s cheapest prepaid data option gives you 250MB to be used within a calendar month. It’s a useful amount if you just need occasional data access from a mobile modem, while not tying you to a monthly contract. The out-of-bundle rate is R1 per MB.

Best value prepaid: R1 800 – 120GB

Telkom Mobile’s best data bundle is undoubtedly its 60GB + 60GB promotion. 60GB for regular hours, and another 60GB for nighttime downloads (11pm to 5am). The bandwidth you purchase is valid for a year, so with careful management you can make it last 12 months and that works out to R150 and 10GB per month.

Vodacom

Cheapest contract: R39/month – 500MB

Vodacom’s cheapest deal, on a 24 month contract, joins the others on offer. Great for occasional browsing while not at home, but not something we’d rely on. It also includes 500MB of data for night time browsing (between midnight and 5am). And it also includes a Justin Bieber album (we are not joking).

Best value contract: R169/month – 3GB

A 3GB bundle is a more sensible offering for those who want to rely on a mobile data line as their only means of connectivity. R169 a month, for 24 months, is also not a bad deal. The Justin Bieber album is included in this bundle, too.

Cheapest prepaid: R12 – 30MB

As with MTN’s 10MB bundle, this 30MB offering is purely here because it’s the cheapest outright offer from Vodacom. Still beats the yellow network for value, but it’s still not a usable amount of data for people who want to rely on mobile data for connectivity. This promotional price is valid until the 6th of February 2014.

Best value prepaid: R399 – 5GB

A far more usable 5GB will only set you back R399 at a time, on Vodacom’s prepaid network. The data is valid for 30 days from the day of purchase and won’t roll over longer than that.

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.