MyBroadband’s mobile network drive tests in January and February 2019 in Cape Town showed that MTN’s network, which is built and maintained by ZTE, comfortably outperformed its rivals.
Over the testing period 16,400 speed tests were performed in Bellville, Bloubergstrand, Brackenfell, Cape Town CBD, Durbanville, Fish Hoek, Goodwood, Hout Bay, Kraaifontein, and Milnerton.
The drive tests were conducted using two vehicles and three sets of high-end smartphones which ran a custom version of MyBroadband’s Android speed test app.
To ensure a fair and neutral testing environment, the speed tests were conducted to MyBroadband’s Cape Town speed test server which is hosted at NAPAfrica.
Drive test results
The results reveal that MTN had the highest average download speed at 36.8Mbps, the highest average upload speed at 14.1Mbps, and the lowest latency at 22ms.
MTN’s biggest rival, Vodacom, was ranked second with a download speed of 23.8Mbps, upload speed of 11.3Mbps, and latency of 26ms.
This data was used to calculate a network quality score (NQS) for the operators, which is a weighted aggregate of the mean download speeds, upload speeds, and latency.
The NQS therefore gives a single measure of how the different cellular network operators performed relative to one another.
The table and chart below include the vendors – ZTE and Nokia – which are responsible for MTN and Vodacom’s Cape Town networks, as performance is linked to network equipment vendors.
*It should be noted that this network performance comparison only compares radio access vendors. The overall network performance can also be influenced by core network architecture, backhaul capacity, network optimisation, and other factors.
Only the best of the best will do – ZTE
ZTE told MyBroadband that for the past four years MTN has invested heavily in network infrastructure with the explicit aim of becoming SA’s best network.
The company said the message from MTN to ZTE was simple: “Only the best of the best will do.”
“In response to technologies such as 4×4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and 3CA (Carrier Aggregation), new radio hardware and software were deployed,” ZTE said.
The latest and ongoing initiative is to deploy LTE on the 900MHz layer, which improves overall coverage and customer experience.
“The breakneck expansion and data-driven upgrades translate to tangible improvements, such as the overall download speeds without adversely impacting customer experience,” ZTE said.
“ZTE has partnered with MTN to usher in the 4G era in the Western Cape and we are committed to provide technologies that are best in the market.”
Nokia’s MEA head of marketing and communications Joachim Wuilmet said they believe the current comparison framework does not provide an accurate vendor comparison, however.
Wuilmet argued that the result is not comparing radio access network (RAN) technologies like for like.
“There are several factors that can affect the results, such as radio network architecture, site configuration, transport network topology, and subscriber profiles within the network,” said Wuilmet.
He said a proper vendor comparison can only be achieved in a controlled environment with the same configuration or network architectures.