Rain’s mobile network quality has shown a big deterioration over the last three months, with the average download speed declining from 21.62Mbps to 17.91Mbps.
This was revealed in MyBroadband Insight’s Q2 2019 Mobile Network Quality Report, which was released this week.
This report showed a strong improvement by MTN, Vodacom and Telkom, with the average download speed in South Africa increasing from 24.20Mbps in Q1 to 25.67 Mbps in Q2.
Rain was the only mobile network whose performance declined, which raises the question: why did this happen?
The main reason, industry players argue, is that the company is struggling to cope with increased data demand.
With more subscribers on its network and the ever-growing demand for more data from subscribers, Rain’s network capacity is coming under strain.
Rain warned that of network capacity problems
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub warned Rain in August 2018 that it will face network capacity constraints in the future, which can cost a lot of money to fix.
Joosub said the looming network congestion means that Rain will face the same challenges as Vodacom, especially in a spectrum-starved environment.
“It is easy when you have an empty network, but when you offer aggressive deals it quickly fills up,” he said.
“Mobile is a contended service which quickly fills up. It is possible for 10,000 or 20,000 customers to fill up your entire network with big data packages.”
When network congestion sets in, you have to improve your network to keep pace with the continued usage growth.
Without additional spectrum, network operators like Rain will have to spend a lot of money on new sites.
Rain CEO dismissed concerns
One of the products which put Rain at risk of network congestion is its unlimited off-peak mobile data product.
Rain’s unlimited off-peak mobile data product offers subscribers unlimited data for 19 hours per day – from 23:00 to 18:00.
Rain CEO Willem Roos dismissed Joosub’s warning, saying in September 2018 that the unlimited off-peak mobile data product was here to stay.
In a recent turn of events, however, Rain informed its subscribers that its unlimited off-peak plan will be discontinued on 30 June 2019.
Soon after this announcement, the company backtracked on this statement, saying this product will continue until Rain launches its new tariffs when it launches 5G later this year.
This means that Rain’s unlimited off-peak mobile data product is likely to be discontinued, which is most probably a result of network capacity problems experienced by the operator.
Rain denies network problems
Despite MyBroadband’s research and many of the company’s customers complaining about deteriorating network quality, Rain said its network continues to improve.
“The Rain network is still in the process of being built (with 3,200 of 5,000 sites live), and as such the overall capacity and performance improves every day,” Roos told MyBroadband.
“Our own internal measurements have not shown a deterioration in performance,” he added.
Rain’s network performance graphs
The graph below shows Rain’s network performance – average download and upload speeds – over the last year.