How Rain matches up to Vodacom and MTN

Through its roaming agreement with Vodacom, Rain has grown its 4G network substantially in South Africa.

The customer base for Rain’s 4G mobile data product remains relatively small, however, which CEO Willem Roos attributes to the niche nature of the product.

“The biggest portion of our business is our wholesale roaming services,” Roos said. “That’s where we get the majority of our revenue.”

Despite this, Rain is still focussing on improving its consumer offerings with the launch of the first 5G network in South Africa.

Roos said that Rain intends for its 5G offering to compete directly with fibre and comprise a larger portion of its revenue in the future.

To give South African subscribers some idea of how Rain’s offering differs from other mobile operators, we have compared their subscriber numbers and network composition.

Mobile subscribers

Roos previously told MyBroadband that Rain had only around 100,000 subscribers on its 4G mobile data product.

He added that the company’s 4G mobile data product is designed as a niche offering which works well as a secondary, cheaper mobile data solution.

In comparison, Vodacom has the most mobile subscribers out of any mobile network in the country – 43.8 million according to the company’s most recent trading update.

MTN’s interim results for the period ended 30 June 2019 reflected that it has a local mobile subscriber base of 29.2 million subscribers, which works out to 26 million customers after deducting the operator’s telemetry subscribers.

Cell C’s latest financial results reflect 16 million South African customers, which works out to 13.6 million after deducting MVNO, business, wholesale, and broadband subscribers.

Telkom’s financial results for the year ended 31 March 2019 showed that it had a total of 9.7 million mobile subscribers.

The subscribers for these mobile operators are listed below. Note that Rain’s subscriber base is listed under prepaid due to the unique nature of its month-to-month uncapped data offering.

Network Prepaid Postpaid Total
Vodacom 37.9 million 5.9 million 43.8 million
MTN 23.3 million 2.7 million 26.0 million
Cell C 12.5 million 1.1 million 13.6 million
Telkom 7.8 million 1.9 million 9.7 million
Rain 100,000 100,000

Network

Rain might lag behind in terms of mobile subscribers, but it is a serious competitor in terms of network infrastructure.

Roos told MyBroadband that the company’s 4G mobile network comprised 3,200 sites, making it competitive with Cell C and Telkom.

The biggest difference between Rain and these two networks is that Cell C and Telkom pay to roam on MTN and Vodacom respectively, while Rain charges Vodacom a significant amount to roam on its network.

This has allowed Rain to essentially outsource the construction of its mobile network to Vodacom, although its 5G network management remains in-house.

Rain said it currently has 250 5G sites, which it expects to grow to 700 by the end of 2020.

Vodacom and MTN do not have any 5G sites, but have much better 4G coverage than Rain, as the latter focusses more on providing mobile broadband in urban areas.

This can be seen in the latest mobile network performance figures, with MTN and Vodacom substantially outstripping the other networks.

Mobile Network Quality Ranking
Network Operator Download Speed (Mbps) Upload Speed (Mbps) Latency (ms) Network Quality Score
MTN 35.90 13.95 34 9.78
Vodacom 29.76 11.53 37 8.24
Telkom 23.07 5.10 38 6.16
Rain 17.91 7.68 30 6.09
Cell C 17.32 8.50 49 5.35

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How Rain matches up to Vodacom and MTN