Rain recently launched unlimited 4G data for phones for R379, which complements its other uncapped data plans.
Rain is in the unique position of launching uncapped data products while other mobile operators fear to go this route.
The caution from mobile networks around uncapped mobile data is justified. Many companies have launched uncapped wireless products using licensed spectrum in the past with disastrous consequences.
The problems around uncapped data stretches back to 2004 when Sentech launched its uncapped MyWireless products.
At the time, Telkom’s DSL 512 service with a 3GB monthly usage limit was the only broadband service on the market.
Sentech’s uncapped MyWireless offerings, with speeds ranging between 128kbps and 512kbps, was an instant hit and enjoyed rapid uptake.
It was not long before network congestion set in, however, with speeds plummeting and users complaining about poor service levels.
This damaged the reputation of Sentech’s MyWireless service and it never really recovered. Sentech pulled the plug on MyWireless in 2009.
Since then, many other companies dabbled with uncapped data using licensed spectrum, including iBurst, MTN, and Telkom. It never ended well.
Most experienced telecoms executives know about these problems, which is why Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub warned Rain against these products in 2018.
Joosub predicted that Rain will face network capacity constraints in the future if it continues to offer large data bundles.
“It is easy when you have an empty network, but when you offer aggressive deals it quickly fills up,” Joosub said.
This is exactly what happened in recent months, with network congestion affecting Rain customers in many parts of the country.
The average download speed on Rain declined from 23Mbps in 2018 to 10Mbps at the time of writing. The company’s customer satisfaction rankings also plummeted over the last two years.
No plans to stop uncapped data products
With Rain grappling with network congestion and customer support challenges, it raises the question of whether its uncapped products are here to stay.
Rain CEO Willem Roos told MyBroadband they are committed to continue to offer uncapped products.
The launch of the new unlimited 4G data for phones product also shows Rain’s trust in its network.
This trust, Roos explained, comes from their network demand forecasts, which are derived from monitoring consumption patterns and trends.
“We use these forecasts to prioritise rollout to meet both capacity and coverage demands,” Roos said.
“Based on these models and Rain’s product design, we are confident that we can meet forecasted additional demand from the uncapped mobile products.”
He added that they are not concerned about running into network congestion problems in future.
“Customer experience is important to us and as such we make a concentrated effort to minimise congestion by increasing capacity,” he said.
“Based on our models we are confident we can meet the additional forecasted demand.”
He said Rain’s network performance has historically been impacted more by coverage than capacity issues.
“We have been deploying thousands of additional sites to increase coverage, spectral efficiency, and capacity.”
Roos is confident that Rain will succeed where others have failed to offer sustainable uncapped wireless products.
“We are confident that we will be able to meet demand based on the innovative, unique combination of product design, service offerings, and consumer behaviour,” he said.