How Rain’s network lets any smartphone work, but keeps restrictions on fixed-LTE routers

Rain has launched its mobile products in South Africa, offering consumers a flat rate of 5c per MB (R50 per GB).

The company is currently selling a variety of launch specials, including SIM-only and device deals which offer “unlimited data” for a set period of time.

Rain also offers users 19 hours of unlimited off-peak data per day as part of a R250-per-month add-on.

The unlimited data usage is valid for 19 hours a day, except at peak times – 18:00 to 23:00.

Another aspect punted by the operator is that customers can use any LTE device to access it data-only network – and users can expect speeds “equivalent to that of 4G mobile networks”.

Rain fixed LTE-A

While Rain’s mobile offerings were launched on 6 June 2018, the company’s fixed LTE-A service was unveiled in partnership with Internet Solutions in June 2017.

Rain’s fixed LTE-A products are available with large monthly data allocations which can be used in place of a fixed-line solution like fibre or DSL.

Unlike Rain’s mobile services, however, the Rain fixed LTE-A SIMs only work in a limited number of LTE routers.

The restrictions on which device can be used on the Rain fixed LTE-A network were implemented on 1 November 2017. The approved devices are:

  • Huawei B315
  • Huawei B618
  • Huawei B2338 (Outdoor)
  • ZTE MF253
  • ZTE MF283+
  • ZTE MF286
  • TP-Link MR200

With Rain’s mobile data-only network and its fixed LTE-A network expected to run on the same infrastructure, this raises several questions:

  1. How are device restrictions enabled for fixed LTE-A users, but not for mobile users?
  2. Will the Rain network be “split” in terms of capacity or spectrum for mobile and fixed LTE-A users?

Logically separate networks

Rain told MyBroadband that Rain’s fixed and mobile networks are “logically separate networks”.

They use different SIM cards and traffic is managed differently.

“On the fixed network, we restrict which devices are allowed to access the network through an element called an Equipment Identity Register,” said Rain.

“The networks are logically separate and split in a pre-5G network splicing technology. Network splicing for different use cases and vertical industries is one of the key elements of 5G deployments,” added Rain.

“The networks share mostly the same physical infrastructure, but this is less and less the case going forward as the networks have different coverage, capacity, and mobility requirements.”

Rain said it does not currently ring-fence or reserve capacity for a specific network, as “it is most efficient to allow all users to consume all available resources”.

It is possible for Rain to manage traffic, however, to ensure the best experience for the average user if part of the network becomes congested.

The company previously stated it also has a fair-usage policy for the unlimited mobile data offering it provides

“We do have a fair-use policy which states that should a customer’s usage significantly impact the experience for other users, Rain may limit certain data traffic profiles for such a user.”

Roaming plans

Currently, Rain is not roaming on any other operator, and “may or may not decide to in future”.

Sales of Rain’s mobile SIMs are also limited to online only at the moment, but it is investigating other channels.

Now read: Vodacom launches its first Android Go smartphones in South Africa

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How Rain’s network lets any smartphone work, but keeps restrictions on fixed-LTE routers