How much it costs to send a WhatsApp message in South Africa

WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app for smartphones in South Africa, thanks to its cheap messaging costs compared to standard SMS rates offered by mobile operators.

The app offers South Africans a way to call, text, and share media with each other at rates far lower than anything offered by mobile networks, even when using a mobile data bundle.

Our previous tests have shown that using WhatsApp to call over a mobile data connection is far cheaper than making a cellular call to another user.

However, other forms of communication offered by the app use different amounts of mobile data.

We therefore tested how much data was used by different types of WhatsApp messaging and calling options.

Data usage

The WhatsApp data usage was measured using WhatsApp’s built-in network usage tools, which provide a refined data usage measurement for smaller options such as text messages.

Data on video and voice calling over WhatsApp was sourced from MyBroadband’s previous tests.

We used two Android smartphones for this test, sending one message at a time between the devices and monitoring the data usage reflected within the application.

The data usage for text messages, standard-resolution photos, one-minute voice calls, 30-second voice notes, 10-second videos, and one-minute voice calls was collected and compared to provide an overview of the data usage requirements for WhatsApp on a modern smartphone.

Below are the results from our WhatsApp data usage tests.

WhatsAppData Usage
Text Message0.3kB
Voice Note (30 seconds)62kB
Photo95kB
Voice Call (1 minute)400kB
Video (10 seconds)2.2MB
Video Call (1 minute)5.05MB

Mobile data prices

From the data we collected, it is apparent that certain functions such as voice notes and standard text messages use very little data and can be quite optimal for communicating over mobile data.

To determine how much each message would cost, we compared the amount of data used for each message type with the price of a 1GB data bundle on each mobile network in South Africa.

Standard 1GB mobile data bundle pricing was used to provide parity with Rain, which charges a flat R50-per-GB rate on its data-only network.

The price of a 1GB data bundle on each mobile network in South Africa is listed below:

  • Vodacom – R149
  • MTN – R149
  • Cell C – R149
  • Telkom – R99
  • Rain – R50

We used these prices to calculate a price-per-MB, which was then used to calculate how much each WhatsApp message type would cost on the mobile networks.

The results are posted below.

WhatsApp MessageMTNVodacomCell CTelkomRain
TextR0.00005R0.00005R0.00005R0.00003R0.00002
Voice Note (30s)R0.009R0.009R0.009R0.006R0.003
PhotoR0.014R0.014R0.014R0.010R0.005
Voice Call (1m)R0.06R0.06R0.06R0.04R0.02
Video (10s)R0.33R0.33R0.33R0.22R0.11
Video Call (1m)R0.75R0.75R0.75R0.51R0.25
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