While the festive season is meant to be enjoyable, it does bring some potential frustrations for everyday South Africans.
Road traffic during the holiday period is one of the most obvious examples, but the festive season also sees a significant increase in mobile network traffic.
The added strain on mobile networks has the potential to result in downtime, which can be frustrating for users.
For this reason, mobile networks seek to improve their coverage and capacity over this period.
MyBroadband spoke to South Africa’s leading mobile networks about how they have been preparing for the annual spike in mobile network traffic.
Vodacom said it saw 42-46% year-on-year growth in total data traffic on Christmas Day and New Years’ Eve, while LTE traffic grew by 90%.
“What is also very noticeable is the difference in the number of WhatsApp messages and calls,” said Vodacom.
“Typically, these peak on Christmas morning and on New Years’ Eve at 24:00, with New Year’s peak traffic almost double that of the Christmas spike. ”
It added that at a localised site coverage level, such as coastal holiday destinations, traffic can increase as much as tenfold.
For this reason, Vodacom deploys temporary mobile sites over the festive periods.
Vodacom said that it uses the previous year’s network traffic increase for the following year’s planning – allowing it to increase its network capacity accordingly.
Given the threat of load-shedding, Vodacom has taken additional steps this year.
“For instance, we have deployed additional resources, batteries and generators at numerous sites across the country and invested hundreds of millions of Rands in these back-up power facilities,” said Vodacom.
Over the New Year’s period, Vodacom will upgrade its capacity on RAN, TX, and Core elements to support additional traffic.
Vodacom cautioned that due to the unique nature of New Year’s Day, it is difficult to ensure that there are no network issues when the clock strikes midnight.
“It is difficult to factor in all elements in the network for the traffic spike on 00:00 on New Year’s Day. For example, the traffic can be more than fourfold what it usually is at this time and customers may experience some degradations during the first five to ten minutes after the clock moves past midnight on New Year’s Eve.”
MTN said it has been hard at work ensuring that its network can carry increased voice and data traffic over the festive season.
Areas that MTN has identified for network optimisation are major routes including:
- N1 linking Cape Town and Limpopo
- N3 linking Gauteng and Durban
- N12 linking Johannesburg and Garden Route
- N2 linking Cape Town and Durban
- N4 linking Pretoria and Mozambique
- N7 linking Cape Town and Namibia
- Popular coastal towns
“We will be working very closely with our vendor partners to monitor network performance around the clock in near real-time, and senior management and regional staff will be on standby to attend to any technical issues that may arise,” said Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer of MTN SA.
MTN said it will also be deploying new base stations and technology upgrades on selected 3G and LTE stations – even in remote areas.
It will also keep track of network performance over Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day – when it expects demand to peak – and will deploy mobile base stations in cases where demand exceeds capacity.
MTN’s holiday upgrades are based on its analysis and trends from previous years – particularly at popular tourist sites including Durban Beachfront, Ballito, Camps Bay, Knysna and Jeffrey’s Bay, as well as input from regional teams and what it has learned from hosting major events.
Telkom said that it doesn’t usually see a significant increase in network traffic over the festive period.
Rather, it experiences a shift in traffic coming from the coastal regions as opposed to inland.
“Telkom rebalances spare capacity to areas we expect traffic volumes to increase such as the coastal regions,” said a Telkom spokesperson.
Telkom said that the trend of messages peaking during December and January has reduced significantly due to the uptake of OTT messaging applications and social media platforms.
“The focus is more on network stability over the festive period, as such the quality expected by Telkom subscribers is maintained during these times.”
“Rain will ensure our network runs smoothly over the festive season,” said Rain CMO Khaya Dlanga.