Bruising best network battle between Vodacom and MTN

In recent years, Vodacom and MTN have invested billions into their networks.

Their aim is to have the best mobile network in South Africa, and the battle to make this claim is heating up.

In the latest scuffle, Vodacom defended its claim to have “SA’s Best Network for 3 years in a row”, following an Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa complaint by MTN.

Instead of using real-world network quality tests to back its “SA’s Best Network” claim, Vodacom relied on the SAcsi ratings.

The South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) uses customer satisfaction surveys to measure the quality of products and services.

Vodacom previously relied on results from speed tests by Ookla and MyBroadband for its “best network” claims.

When these speed test platforms showed that Vodacom no longer had the best network, the company moved to the SAcsi for its claims.

This created a situation where real-world network quality tests from MyBroadband showed MTN had the best network, while Vodacom claims to have the best network based on a consumer survey.

Vodacom and MTN’s advertisements, which ran within a week of each other, are shown below.

Best Network

MTN’s complaint

MTN’s ASA complaint against Vodacom focused on the fact that the “best network” and “fastest network” claims are interpreted as a network performance claim.

All previous “SA’s Best Network” claims were communicated in the context of network performance, such as speed, coverage, and dropped calls.

The focus was often on metrics such as download speed and upload speed, as reported by Ookla and MyBroadband.

“It would appear that Vodacom has sought to justify its network performance claim by relying on whichever entity was able to provide satisfactory evidence,” said MTN.

“The decision to do so now [using SAcsi results] suggests a deliberate attempt to retain an established network performance claim by confusing it with a consumer perception poll.”

Vodacom responds

Vodacom said its “Best” claims should be considered in the context of the advertising as a whole.

It added that the world “Best” is immediately followed by an asterisk, which refers to the disclaimer “*As rated by SAcsi 2017”.

Vodacom added that there are no references to speed, coverage, uploading, and streaming of videos online, voice calls, or dropped calls.

Vodacom Billboard
Vodacom billboard where it changed the claim’s reference to SAcsi.

ASA ruling

The ASA agreed with Vodacom’s argument, saying the Vodacom advertisement is not misleading or dishonest.

The ASA subsequently dismissed MTN’s complaint.

The best network in South Africa

This ruling creates a situation where “best network” claims can be made based on network performance results and on consumer perception surveys.

SAcsi founder Adre Schreuder told MyBroadband he believes the SAcsi ratings provide an accurate reflection of “network quality”.

“The SAcsi includes network quality – amongst others – as part of our definition of customer satisfaction,” said Schreuder.

He said their measure is aligned with the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) model.

“In addition to network quality, this model includes the quality of service as part of the value proposition and more intangible components that reflect on the quality the customer experiences in all the different touch points and channels (retail, online, app, social media, web chat, etc),” he said.

MyBroadband’s speed test results, which are based on real-world network performance tests, show that MTN has the best network in South Africa.

This ostensibly means there can now be two companies – in this case Vodacom and MTN – which can claim to have the best network at the same time.

Mobile Network Quality Report

Now read: The best mobile network in South Africa

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Bruising best network battle between Vodacom and MTN