Rain Mobile is heavily throttling downloads – These are the speeds you can expect

Rain Mobile users take note: if you experience slow download speeds between 18:00 and 23:00, you are not alone.

Following extensive tests by MyBroadband, we found that between 18:00 and 23:00, Rain Mobile drastically throttles downloads on it network.

The first indications of this were seen in a 24-hour download test by MyBroadband this week, where we managed to download 144.15GB using Rain Mobile and a Huawei LTE-A router.

While the result was impressive, we noticed our download speeds in our BiTorrent client dropped significantly at 18:00 – going from 2MB/s to 3MB/s (16Mbps to 24Mbps) to under 150KB/s.

Separate tests conducted by a MyBroadband journalist showed that Steam downloads were also affected, with download speeds dropping from 40Mbps to under 400kbps at 18:00, and then returning to normal at 23:00 this week.

As Rain is offering all users unlimited data in June – and between 15 to 90 days of unlimited data usage from 1 July, depending on the package purchased – the management of downloads on their network was predicted by industry players.

Speed tests

To see if the throttling or shaping of network traffic on Rain could be quantified, we placed a Rain Mobile SIM in a Huawei P20 and ran hundreds of speed tests.

The MyBroadband Speed Test app was used, with the app set to run a speed test on the network once a minute, every minute, from 08:00 in the morning until after 23:00 on 27 June 2018.

The results, shown in the graphs below, were conclusive – our download and upload speeds were essentially capped at 3Mbps from 18:00 to 23:00, with speed tests run before and after this window producing “normal” results.

To illustrate the speed reduction, four results pulled from the test data – two just outside of the window, and two just inside it – are shown below.

Speed Test Results
Time Download Upload
17:59 25.95Mbps 10.69Mbps
18:00 3.15Mbps 2.99Mbps
22:59 3.12Mbps 2.94Mbps
23:00 30.23Mbps 12.35Mbps

Download Speeds

The graph below shows the results of download speed tests conducted on Rain’s mobile network.

The sharp drop and subsequent extended plateau – running at 3Mbps – starts at 18:00 and ends at 23:00.

Rain Download Speeds
Click to enlarge.

Upload Speeds

The graph below shows the results of upload speed tests conducted on Rain’s mobile network.

The sharp drop and subsequent extended plateau – running at 3Mbps – starts at 18:00 and ends at 23:00.

Rain Upload Speeds
Click to enlarge.

Rain explains

Rain told MyBroadband that the speeds seen above are a result of its prioritisation of real-time traffic – such as video streaming, voice, and web browsing – over non-real-time traffic.

Non-real-time traffic includes large file downloads and torrents.

“Shared networks have finite resources, which are shared between all the users on the network. In the case of a mobile network, this contention is confined to the radio access layer,” said a Rain spokesperson.

“User experience is much more impacted by having real-time traffic slow down than non-real-time traffic, as having a movie stutter while someone is streaming is a much worse experience than waiting a little while longer for a large download.”

Rain said it is building more intelligence into its network every day to refine its network management strategy, and aims to give users the most consistent and best experience it can.

“We have no desire or motivation to slow down any user unless necessary,” said Rain.

Unlimited data

With Rain Mobile currently offering a variety of unlimited usage scenarios, this raises questions about how the network will deal with downloads going forward.

Rain is currently offering all users free data for June. From 1 July, users’ respective “unlimited data days” allotments will kick in, which range between 15 to 90 days.

Users also have the option to purchase a R250 unlimited data add-on, which gives them 19 hours a day of uncapped usage.

Rain said that traffic management is an ongoing process, which will be refined and relieved as the network matures.

“It isn’t something specific during data days, as traffic has been managed across the network from the start. The vast majority of users on the network aren’t impacted by traffic management at all,” said Rain.

“Traffic management is intended to ensure the majority of users receive the best experience possible. Users are able to use as much as they like, but they also need to take into account that it is a shared network and it will be managed to ensure that the behaviour of a few doesn’t negatively impact the experience of the many,” said Rain, with regards to its 19-hour unlimited data add-on.

Rain added that it is not currently necessary to manage traffic outside of its busy period – 18:00 to 23:00.

Industry standard

It must be noted that Rain’s management of its network, especially with regards to the unlimited data offers, is not unique to the company.

The throttling of torrent traffic and downloads is done by many ISPs, particularly in the case of uncapped accounts, to provide a good overall experience for the majority of their users.

Now read: Voice calling price comparison – WhatsApp vs Facebook vs Skype

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Rain Mobile is heavily throttling downloads – These are the speeds you can expect