Biggest achievements by South Africa’s mobile networks in 2023

South Africa’s mobile network industry continued to see overall growth in customers, coverage, and revenues in 2023.

One of the year’s biggest moments was Rain officially becoming South Africa’s fifth mobile network operator in May 2023.

It now offers voice calls and SMSes in addition to its data services.

Another key development was the Competition Commission’s recommendation that the Competition Tribunal not approve Vodacom’s proposed acquisition of a 30% stake in fibre player Maziv — which owns Vumatel and DFA.

However, the Tribunal will only make its decision on the matter next year.

Vumatel and Maziv have argued that the deal will be to the benefit of South African consumers.

Vodacom has also seen its group revenue boosted by its takeover of Vodacom Egypt.

Among MTN’s most noteworthy developments were several innovative products focusing on affordable data.

It also reached over 30 partners on its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) platform.

This side of the industry has seen several new players step up with disruptive products and pricing — including Afrihost Air Mobile and Melon Mobile.

Telkom continued to grow its mobile subscriber base while its fixed subscribers declined due to the gradual decommissioning of its ADSL network.

Meanwhile, Cell C has continued to struggle to get out of its financial quagmire.

While the operator has deliberately shed millions of low-value customers since June 2023, its average revenue per user has only increased slightly.

It was recently also revealed that Cell C applied to have control of its spectrum and network licences transferred to another subsidiary of its parent company — Blue Label Telecoms. Icasa has extended the deadline for public comment on this.

Another major theme of the year has been how operators responded to the worst load-shedding South Africa has ever seen.

To keep customers connected as long as possible during power outages, networks needed to pump substantial sums into backup power systems.

We asked Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, Rain, and Cell C for feedback on their biggest achievements in 2023.


Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy provided MyBroadband with an extensive list of what South Africa’s biggest mobile network regarded as its major achievements.

In South Africa, in particular, it celebrated the conclusion of a first-ever virtual electricity wheeling agreement with Eskom.

Kennedy said the initiative would drive investment into new energy generation and serve as a blueprint for other companies to adopt.

Among the accolades for Vodacom’s leaders was group CEO Shameel Joosub receiving the MyBroadband Telecoms CEO of the Year Award and an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Management Sciences from the Central University of Technology.

Vodacom and Eskom signed a landmark virtual wheeling agreement on 30 August 2023. From left to right: Calib Cassim, Eskom interim CEO; Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO; Sitho Mdlalose, Vodacom South Africa CEO

Vodacom Group chief financial officer Raisibe Morathi was also named the 2023 CFO of the Year at the 2023 CFO Awards.

Vodacom was also proud of being recognised for its exceptional customer service, declared the Ask Afrika Orange Index Award winner, and won the Strategy Execution Award and the High-Performance Team Award at the 2023 CFO Awards.

Kennedy said one of Vodacom South Africa’s biggest challenges in the year was load-shedding.

The operator spent R4.5 billion on building resilience to the power outages over the past four and a half years.

It has also seen its base stations increasingly targeted for theft and vandalism, which it estimated cost around R120–R130 million per year.

“Organised syndicates are coming up with unique approaches to commit this crime, which affects the industry at large, not just Vodacom.”

“On average, 600 incidents per month are recorded where sites have been impacted by theft or damage.

“Nonetheless, we are not sitting on our laurels and are fighting back by coming up with innovative measures to stem the tide of battery theft,” Kennedy said.

“[We] have ramped up the fight against this criminal activity, implementing new security measures to make sure that the thieves are caught and prosecuted.”

Outside of South Africa, Vodacom listed the following achievements as its most noteworthy:

  • Launching Mozambique’s first 5G network after 20 years of operation in the country.
  • Launching its mobile money service M-PESA in Ethiopia to boost financial inclusion and economic growth in Africa’s second most populous country.
  • M-PESA processing $364.8 billion in transactions in the past financial year, maintaining its top position as Africa’s largest mobile money platform by transaction value.
  • Reaching 20 million subscribers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In that same country, Vodacom received the Changing Lives Award at the 2023 Africa Tech Festival Awards.
  • Vodacom Group being certified as one of Africa’s top employers by the Top Employers Institute for the seventh year in a row.


MTN’s response was focused more on its South African business.

The operator said among its biggest achievements were significant strides in its network resilience programme and product innovation.

MTN put a further R1.5 billion forward for the resilience programme in 2023.

“MTN South Africa has spearheaded a comprehensive modernisation project across a number of provinces,” the operator said.

“This initiative aligns with the company’s commitment to providing innovative solutions that alleviate the challenges posed by load shedding while also increasing access to connectivity and the benefits of a connected world.”

Backup batteries at an MTN base station.

MTN also highlighted its continued strong network performance in South Africa.

“Throughout the year, the MyBroadband Mobile Network Quality Report named MTN as the best network in South Africa, and in major metros across the country.”

The operator continued to expand its 5G network beyond major metros and in small towns across the country.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, MTN has already modernised 245 sites, with plans to reach a total of 317 by the close of 2023,” MTN said.

“This will be accompanied by the rollout of 28 new sites across the country.”

“In the Western Cape, 230 additional 5G sites have been deployed in 2023, totalling 429, while sites with enhanced resilience are achieving an impressive 99.4% network availability.”

In Gauteng, the addition of 59 new sites brought its total tally to 965 in the province.

With regards to products, MTN said it launched more affordable data packages aimed at bridging the digital divide and reducing the cost to communicate.

This included MTN Superflex — which offers 10GB data and unlimited voice minutes for R299 per month — and MTN Super Data bundles.

MTN South Africa’s other highlights included:

  • A partnership with Disney+ on a mobile subscription of the streaming service’s su
  • Mobile money platform MTN MoMo reaching over 8 million registered subscribers.
  • MTN-sponsored Springboks winning the 2023 Rugby World Cup
  • MTN South Africa foundation investing R54 million in communities and schools.


Telkom said it prioritised concluding the disposal of its masts and towers business in 2023.

The operator’s focus has been on consolidating its core assets — including fibre networks, data centres, satellite, and marine cables — into an infrastructure company.

In the mobile business, Telkom spent R1.6 billion on over 1,000 projects ranging from new sites to radio upgrades to improve customer experience.

This grew its coverage of the population to 84%.

The operator also punted its achievement of becoming the first network in the country to switch off its 2G services.

This has allowed Telkom to re-farm its spectrum for 4G and optimise power usage.

“The switch-off is also in line with our data-led strategy and ahead of the government’s ambition to sunset legacy technologies,” Telkom said.

“Our 4G device adoption rate now surpasses 89% and aligns with financial prudence and regulatory directives to phase out all legacy technologies by 2025, including 3G.”

The operator has also expanded its 5G network to 413 sites.

On the product side, Telkom expanded its FlexOn portfolio for smartphones to provide customers with more choice.

“FlexOn is popular since it offers customers simple unrestricted data, where you get to use your data your way, with no limitations on specific apps, platforms or after hours,” Telkom said.

Telkom added its main challenge was the country’s poor economic performance, driven by high inflation and rising interest rates.

To counteract this, the operator implemented cost-reduction initiatives to offset inflationary cost pressures.

Like Vodacom and MTN, Telkom also had to deal with intensified load-shedding.

“We responded swiftly to the impact of load-shedding and are investing in alternative backup energy to reduce diesel use,” Telkom said.

“We’re adding more solar energy as the primary backup form of energy and upgraded backup batteries to lithium-ion to increase their capacity.”

Cell C

Cell C said a significant milestone in 2023 was completing its network migration five months early — in June 2023 instead of November 2023.

The company said its infrastructure-sharing approach enabled a capex-light model, while giving it access to approximately 28,000 towers across the country, significantly increasing national coverage and stability, particularly with increased load-shedding.

On the financial end, the company said its business stabilisation efforts started yielding improved results in the third quarter, positioning it to return to growth and enhanced competitiveness in the market.

Q3 2023 was the first quarter in the year where Cell C saw year-on-year revenue growth.

The operator also recorded its blended ARPU for the consumer base increasing from R74 in 2022 to R80 by the end of September 2023, due to an increased focus on high-value customers.

On the product side, Cell C said it focused on value for money, including offerings like SupaBonus, which provides triple the allocation on recharge purchases with longer usage time and Talk All Day, a 1-day bundle that provides unlimited Cell C to Cell C calls for R9.


As part of the launch of its fully-fledged mobile network, Rain rolled out a RainOne product that combines a fixed-5G package with two 4G SIMs.

The operator also launched a new router — the101™ 5G smart router —  in November 2023. This decide can be customised with a range of skins.

Rain also brought Nvidia’s GeForce’s Now game streaming service to South Africa in early December.

The mobile network ran a beta of the service from late September to early December to get feedback from users on the playing experience.

It is the first cloud game streaming service to be offered locally, enabling gamers without powerful hardware to stream the latest titles on their smartphone, smart TV, or a low-end PC’s browser, for a monthly price starting at R160.

Now read: Vodacom lists on A2X

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Biggest achievements by South Africa’s mobile networks in 2023