Performance of South Africa’s top ISPs in 2020 compared

2020 was one of the busiest years in history for South African Internet service providers (ISPs) as millions of South Africans were forced to work from home.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, demand for broadband access spiked.

Many people suddenly needed a stable broadband connection at home to perform their work duties and keep entertained.

This resulted in a flood of sales requests to broadband services providers for fibre, fixed-LTE, and ADSL connections.

So significant was the increase in demand for broadband access that Telkom decided to put its plans to discontinue ADSL on hold.

Telkom said where it has “good copper” it will offer ADSL to customers at lower rates than ever before to ensure they are connected.

ISPs and fibre network operators also joined forces to upgrade Internet speeds for free during the national lockdown to support people working from home.

ISPs also had to adapt to changing usage patterns. South Africans used far more bandwidth during the day because of the increase in remote working.

Afrihost told MyBroadband there was a 62% increase in usage in the afternoon and a 27% increase in usage at peak periods – around 20:00.

The only period where pre-lockdown bandwidth use was higher than during the lockdown was between 06:00 and 07:30.

This showed that people were getting up later during the lockdown, which is not surprising as no travel time was needed to start work.

How ISPs performed during the lockdown

Many ISPs performed very well during the lockdown while others struggled with network congestion and customer support.

The biggest winners during the lockdown were Cool Ideas, MTN, and Afrihost.

Cool Ideas jumped from third to first in the quarterly MyBroadband ISP rankings and maintained this position throughout the lockdown.

MTN, which offers affordable fixed-LTE products over its excellent network, also increased its ranking throughout the lockdown.

Afrihost, which offers a variety of broadband services, jumped from fifth to second after the lockdown kicked in.

On the other end of the scale, Rain struggled to cope with increased network traffic and customer support.

Rain’s network speeds and customer satisfaction ratings plummeted during the lockdown, and it dropped to the bottom of the ISP rankings.

The table below provides an overview of the performance of prominent South African ISPs during the lockdown.

Average ISP Ranking Position (lower is better)
ISP Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Average Position
Cool Ideas 3 1 1 1 1.5
Vox 2 3 2 5 3.0
Afrihost 5 2 4 3 3.5
MTN 6 4 3 2 3.8
Supersonic 1 6 6 6 4.8
RSAWEB 4 5 8 4 5.3
Axxess 7 7 5 8 6.8
Vodacom 8 8 10 7 8.3
MWEB 9 9 7 9 8.5
Cell C 10 10 9 10 9.8
Telkom 12 11 12 11 11.5
Rain 11 12 11 12 11.5
Average Customer Satisfaction Rating (higher is better)
ISP Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Average Rating
Cool Ideas 7.32 7.88 8.10 8.09 7.85
MTN 7.13 7.35 7.90 7.93 7.58
Afrihost 7.17 7.54 7.70 7.85 7.57
Vox 7.60 7.37 7.90 7.22 7.52
Supersonic 7.60 6.94 6.90 7.16 7.15
RSAWEB 7.31 7.10 6.80 7.28 7.12
Axxess 6.77 6.93 7.20 6.28 6.80
Vodacom 6.47 6.85 6.50 6.80 6.66
MWEB 6.33 6.40 6.80 6.10 6.41
Cell C 6.18 6.17 6.60 5.56 6.13
Rain 5.85 5.29 5.40 5.42 5.49
Telkom 4.73 5.32 5.10 5.50 5.16

Now read: Best ISP in South Africa revealed

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Performance of South Africa’s top ISPs in 2020 compared