MyBroadband’s recent mobile network performance drive tests in Gauteng show what many people know – network performance is directly related to network investment.
Between 1 January and 5 February 2019 MyBroadband conducted 28,567 drive tests in Gauteng using the latest high-end LTE smartphones.
The phones run a custom version of the MyBroadband Android speed test app which performs download, upload, and latency tests at regular intervals.
The results show that MTN had the best network performance with the highest download and upload speeds, and the lowest latency.
MTN was closely followed by Vodacom, with Rain, Telkom and Cell C’s performance far behind the two leaders.
The table below shows the average network performance and peak performance of the five operators in Gauteng during the testing period.
|Average Network Performance – Gauteng Drive Tests|
|Operator||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)||Latency (ms)||Peak Speed (Mbps)|
Network performance closely linked to network investment
The performance of the five network operators in Gauteng is closely linked to their network investment in recent years.
MTN, for example, spent around R37 billion over the last three-and-a-half years on improving its network.
Vodacom, in comparison, invested around R30 billion in its network over the same period.
These large network investments enabled the two operators to significantly increase their 4G coverage and roll out the latest network technologies.
Their network enhancements include deploying advanced antenna technologies like 4×4 MIMO, 3CC (3 Carrier Combining) and advanced features such as 256QAM.
Smaller operators like Cell C and Telkom do not have the money to match MTN and Vodacom’s network investments and the results show in their coverage and performance.
This is why Telkom and Cell C have signed 4G roaming agreements with Vodacom and MTN respectively.
The charts below show the relationship between network investment – over the last 18 months – and network performance.
Cell C and Rain were not included as accurate network investment figures are not available for them.
*The Network Quality Score takes download speed, upload speed, and latency into account, and shows how the network performed in relation to other networks.
Coverage is king
Many people expected Rain’s average performance to exceed MTN and Vodacom’s because its full network supports 4G.
The argument was that MTN and Vodacom have countrywide coverage with many of their subscribers residing in areas which are only covered by 3G.
This did not happen, and the reason is simple: coverage is extremely important to provide a good mobile experience.
A denser mobile network and better indoor coverage translates into more network capacity and higher average speeds.
Better coverage also means that subscribers are, on average, closer to a base station when using their phones – which improves performance.
It is therefore not surprising that MTN and Vodacom, which have the best coverage – especially 4G – in South Africa, also have the best network performance.
Tests performed on the networks
The images below show the successful tests performed in Gauteng over the last month, which loosely relates to the coverage of the five operators.
Each red dot with a green circle around it represents one test. Bigger red areas represent multiple tests in the same area.
The more red areas an operator has, the better its coverage was during the testing period.