Mobile network coverage tests – Emalahleni to Waterval Boven

MyBroadband recently tested the mobile network quality in Mpumalanga as part of its countrywide mobile network testing project.

The MyBroadband mobile network testing project is conducted in partnership with Afristay and Samsung, and provides a comprehensive look at cellular network quality in South Africa.

Coverage and data throughput tests are conducted using the MyBroadband Speed Test App, running on our Samsung Galaxy S9 smartphone test bench.

A SIM from each of the mobile operators – Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, and Telkom – is used in the Galaxy S9 phones, and performance tests are conducted on regular intervals while driving.

MyBroadband’s speed test servers are hosted in Teraco’s vendor-neutral data centres to ensure an impartial testing environment.

Through NAPAfrica, all network operators present at its peering points are provided with a free 10Gbps connection to the MyBroadband Speed Test platform.

The N4 Maputo corridor

The latest route we tested was along the N4 freeway from Pretoria to Nelspruit, with thousands of speed tests in Emalahleni, Middelburg, and Waterval Boven.

We then calculated the Network Quality Score for the region and for each of the towns, which took download speed, upload speed, and latency into account.

The Network Quality Score out of 10 shows how the networks performed in relation to other networks.

Understanding the maps below: Each of the small red dots with a green circle around it indicates a test in that area. Larger red dots indicate multiple tests in the area.

Mobile Network Quality in the Mpumalanga Cultural Heartland

In the big cities and larger towns along the route, mobile network quality was good – with download speeds of over 100Mbps in places.

Vodacom had the highest-quality network overall, thanks to consistent performances in Emalahleni and Middelburg.

It should be noted that Vodacom had no coverage in Waterval Boven due to a network outage in the area.

Locals reported that they usually get good signal, but Vodacom’s data network had been offline since a week before we came through the area.

Since speeds in Waterval Boven were generally lower than in Emalahleni and Middelburg, it stands to reason that Vodacom’s overall score may have been lower if it’s network in the area was online.

However, it could also have pipped MTN and delivered excellent speeds and increased its score further.

With no data for the area, Vodacom was given a “no coverage” result in Waterval Boven.

N4 Maputo Corridor

Emalahleni (Witbank)

The race for the best network quality in Emalahleni was neck-and-neck, but Cell C ultimately beat South Africa’s big two operators.



MTN had the best network quality in Middelburg by a significant margin, with average download speeds of 32Mbps and upload speeds of 13Mbps.


Waterval Boven

MTN was effectively unopposed in Waterval Boven, as Vodacom was experiencing an extended outage in the area. Cell C does offer coverage, but its average download throughput was low – 1Mbps compared to MTN’s 21Mbps.

Where we stayed

Thanks to our project partner Afristay, we were able to spend the night in Emalahleni and Waterval Boven to ensure we were well rested for the next leg of our journey.

After mapping Emalahleni we stayed in the Hippo River Lodge, and on our way through Waterval Boven we spent the night at the Shamrock Arms.

Shamrock Arms Guest Lodge – Waterval Boven

Shamrock Arms Guest Lodge evening

Built in 1894, the Shamrock Arms has been able to maintain its country village allure while achieving a four-star status with the SA tourism grading council.

The Shamrock Arms is the kind of place where you meet the hosts, and can chat with them over breakfast or dinner.

While resting in a great bed was welcome after a long day on the road, Jaco’s great cooking was the highlight of our stay. Easily the best omelette I’ve had in my travels.

Hippo River Lodge — Emalahleni

Hippo River Lodge front entrance

The Hippo River Lodge is a slice of luxury just on the outskirts of the city.

While its bar, restaurant, and lounge areas are decorated with wood and old items to give it a rustic flair, the rooms are modern, minimalist, and elegant.

The rooms are well-maintained and spacious, with more than enough electrical outlets for all the gear we had to charge. My wife said she also really liked our room’s bathroom.

What we saw

Witbank potholes
Emalahleni: where potholes are craters and the cars ride high (Image from Witbank News).
Witbank Duvha Power Station
Duvha Power Station in Emalahleni.
Google Maps what Hoeveldpark actually looks like
Ghost suburb. This is where Google Maps said the Northern extension of Hoëveldpark in Witbank should be.
Water tower mast
Middelburg making sure this neighbourhood has good coverage.
Five-arch bridge Waterval Boven
Five-Arch Bridge outside Waterval Boven.
Five-arch bridge helpful graffiti
Helpful graffiti near the Five-Arch Bridge.

Now read: How MTN became the best network in South Africa

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Mobile network coverage tests – Emalahleni to Waterval Boven