MyBroadband put Rain’s new 5G broadband service through its paces, and the results were truly impressive.
Rain launched its new 5G service in September, offering “unlimited ultra-fast Internet” with speeds of up to 700Mbps for R1,000 per month.
Rain’s 5G service is currently available in selected areas in Johannesburg and Tshwane, where it has around 250 towers covering 500,000 households.
MyBroadband was keen to put the service to the test, but Rain would not give us a review unit and the service is not commercially available yet.
The operator did, however, invite a select group of existing Rain customers to purchase its 5G product, and one MyBroadband journalist was able to get his hands on the package.
Buying the product and delivery
MyBroadband purchased the Rain 5G service through the company’s web portal, which was a straightforward process.
You have to pay an upfront fee of R2,250 for the Huawei 5G CPE Pro modem, which includes a Rain 5G SIM card and free delivery through a courier company.
The modem and SIM card were delivered before 11:00 the day after we ordered it, and the RICA process was completed when we accepted the package.
The ordering and delivery process was seamless and the package contained everything we needed to get connected.
Activating the service
It takes anything between 3 and 24 hours to activate the Rain 5G SIM, and an email notification is sent to the user to confirm that the process was completed.
Should you run into any issues in the activation process, Rain directs you to a separate “VIP” number which puts you in direct contact with an assistant.
The assistant MyBroadband spoke to was knowledgeable and able to answer a number of technical questions that we had.
A unique part of the process is that users must register their location through a Google Maps feature and do a speed test before the service is activated.
During this process, users are frequently requested to move the modem around their homes to get the possible speeds and place the modem as close as possible to a window.
The Rain assistant said that this test may be run as many times as needed, but that the service will not activate if the speed test is unable to reach 80Mbps.
She added that users who are unable to reach these speeds may contact Rain, who will then send out an engineer to assist them directly.
Until the service is activated you will not be able to able to reach any other websites other than the landing page – even if you have 4G coverage.
We easily reached the 80Mbps required speed, as shown in the screenshot below.
Testing Rain 5G
MyBroadband tested the Rain 5G service in an area where the company has coverage in Johannesburg’s East Rand.
Multiple speed tests on MyBroadband’s speed test platform gave an average download speed of 500Mbps, with speeds peaking at 700Mbps.
There was no sign of throttling or shaping during peak hours, and we were able to maintain these speeds when downloading through P2P and a torrent client.
Watching multiple 4K Netflix streams while downloading large files simultaneously was no problem for the connection, and there were no noticeable signs of degradation.
Gaming on the connection was also excellent, with latency only slightly higher than what we received through a fibre connection at the same location.
Game downloads were a breeze. We downloaded a 6.1GB game on Steam in well under two minutes, which illustrates the performance of the service.
One observation worth noting is that the upload speeds were nowhere as impressive as the download speeds – hovering between 10Mbps and 20 Mbps.
However, this should not impact the experience for regular users who typically download rather than upload content.
Rain 5G versus fibre
Rain’s 5G service is currently by far the best alternative to fibre-to-the-home in South Africa.
At R1,000 per month for an uncapped service, it offers higher average speeds at a lower price than comparable fibre services.
The true test, however, will come when Rain launches commercial 5G services and when thousands of subscribers use the network simultaneously.
If Rain’s 5G network continues to perform at a similar level to what we are experiencing now, it is a truly impressive service and will be a hit in the local broadband market.