The cellphone industry in South Africa is dominated by the two giants - Vodacom (50% owned by Telkom) and MTN. Vodacom is the market leader in South Africa (although MTN is bigger overall), whilst Cell C is a much smaller player than Vodacom or MTN. The cellphone industry has been particularly successful in South Africa because of the inefficiences of the Telkom fixed-line monopoly (resulting in fixed-line prices close to cellphone prices), the high incidence rate of copper cable theft in South Africa and the fact that Telkom hasn't rolled out its services to the masses.
MTN's parent company is M-net (a pay-TV channel). At its incorporation on the 23rd November 1993, MTN was 100% owned by M-Cell, which in turn was owned by Cable & Wireless (25%), Fabcos (5%) M-Net (25%), Nail (20%), Transnet (20%) and SACTWU (SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union ) (5%). In September 1995 SBC purchased 15.5% of MTN for US$90 million, with MTN using the money to finance its nationwide cellular network expansion. SBC also entered into a JV with NAIL (New Africa Investments Limited), the owner of Naftel - one of MTN's partners.
Vodacom is 50% owned by Telkom SA and 50% owned by the Vodafone Group.
In September 1993 Vodacom and in January 1994 MTN were given fifteen-year licences to operate cellular networks in South Africa.
We welcome input to improve our coverage of cellphone options in South Africa