Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and 8ta would not release information about their network quality, and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is also ignoring calls to make this information public.
In July 2011 ICASA released its first mobile network quality report. At the time the regulator said that these tests aimed to “obtain a snapshot of an operator’s network performance from the user’s point of view”.
The results were damning. ICASA found that Cell C, Vodacom and MTN failed to meet the minimum requirements for some of the measured components like Call Set Up Success Rate (CSSR) and Dropped Call Rate (DCR).
The mobile operators slated ICASA’s network quality report, saying that their network availability is above 99%. This is well above the regulatory requirement of 95%.
End-User Service Charter Regulations of 2009
All licensees must ensure that they achieve an average of 95% network service availability, over a period of six (6) months
Curiously, ICASA said that its own tests were specifically needed because Vodacom, MTN and Cell C’s “self-assessment submissions were not consistent with customer’s experience”. In simple terms: the operators cannot be trusted to provide accurate figures about their network quality.
Considering that there are hefty fines for not complying with the regulations, it is hardly surprising that self-assessment reports may not be an accurate way to assess network quality.
Stalling further quality reports
After the damning network quality report in July 2011, the mobile operators were successful in stopping any further reports until a quality testing methodology document was finalized. A year and a half later, and this document has still not been finalised.
This means that South African consumers are kept in the dark about the network quality of the mobile operators.
The blame game has already begun for this delay. The mobile operators indicated that they do not know why the testing methodology document is taking so long, hinting that ICASA is to blame for the delay.
ICASA in turn said that the process of creating a testing methodology document has not proceeded as fast as it would have preferred. The regulator added that it has taken the decision to proceed with the publishing of their drive test results in March 2013.
Keeping you in the dark about mobile network quality
It is not always easy to establish the truth, especially when dealing with a combination of large companies and governmental agencies.
Most of the parties involved in this issue claim that they want to provide consumers with accurate information about the mobile network quality in South Africa.
Since ICASA still receives bi-annual quality of service reports from the operators, this information can assist to keep the public informed about the network quality from mobile operators.
MyBroadband asked all the parties if they can provide their latest network quality report (which ICASA indicated should be in the public domain as part of their promised quarterly reports). The feedback was telling:
- Vodacom was not willing to provide this report, referring us to ICASA.
- Cell C was not willing to provide this report, saying that ICASA still needs to process the information.
- 8ta ignored a request for their network quality report.
- MTN ignored a request for their network quality report.
- ICASA ignored a request for the network quality reports from the mobile operators.
Consumers are therefore left to their own devices when it comes to establishing mobile network quality.
This is despite the fact that ICASA said that it has a critical mandate to protect the interest of consumers, and promised to publish quarterly reports about its network testing.
Please let us know how you rate your mobile provider’s network quality by posting in the comment section below or in the forum.