Real-world network tests have revealed that there are strange and unexpected network performance problems when using a Telkom Mobile SIM.
These network problems relate to Telkom’s own mobile network and when Telkom users roam on Vodacom’s network.
The tests were conducted by MyBroadband after we received complaints from Telkom Mobile users about slow data speeds.
Telkom Mobile subscribers complained about unexpectedly poor download speeds on Telkom’s network and that their roaming experience was also poor.
Complaints about network speeds are common with mobile networks, and this is partly because performance is closely linked to location (signal strength) and tower contention.
The complaints about Telkom’s network were unique, however. Users complained that it looks like Telkom was proactively throttling or crippling their experience.
MyBroadband conducted real-world tests to see if these problems could be reproduced. The test methodology and results are shown below.
Telkom Mobile roaming tests
To investigate the reported roaming problems, MyBroadband performed multiple stationary and drive tests in Gauteng and the North West province where Telkom did not have coverage.
These tests were conducted using Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphones with new Telkom and Vodacom SIMs.
Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphones were used to ensure that the latest network technologies from Vodacom and Telkom were supported.
Telkom’s roaming agreement with Vodacom means that Telkom Mobile subscribers can access Vodacom’s 4G/LTE network.
Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko previously said seamless handover and 4G technology were part of Telkom’s roaming agreement with Vodacom.
This, Maseko said, would “improve the customer experience on the Telkom network”.
Many Telkom Mobile users therefore expected to have the same experience as Vodacom subscribers when they roamed on Vodacom’s network.
This was not the case.
When we moved into an area where Telkom roams on Vodacom’s network, the Telkom SIM often connected to Edge instead of 4G/LTE. Data throughput was virtually zero in these cases.
This happened despite the fact that Vodacom had full 4G coverage in these areas, and the Vodacom SIM stayed connected to the 4G network – with good throughput.
In a few areas the Telkom SIM completely lost connectivity while the Vodacom SIM had a strong 4G signal – the Telkom phone showing the message “Emergency calls only”.
In cases where the Telkom SIM connected to Vodacom’s LTE or HSPA networks, there was a big difference in speed between a Telkom SIM and a Vodacom SIM.
The screenshots below show the difference in experience between a Telkom SIM and a Vodacom SIM in the same area and at the same time.
Download Speed (Telkom on the left)
Upload Speed (Telkom on the left)
Latency (Telkom on the left)
Connection (Telkom Edge on the left and Vodacom 4G on the right)
Telkom’s own network
To test the claims of throttling of certain traffic on the Telkom network, MyBroadband also conducted speed tests with and without a VPN.
These tests revealed that Telkom’s download speeds using a VPN were much higher than the speed when no VPN was used.
A VPN encrypts traffic and can use a custom port, which means it is more challenging to shape specific types of traffic – like HTTP/HTTPS.
The screenshots below show the performance difference in MyBroadband’s real-world speed tests.
It is interesting to note that only download speeds are affected: 0.83Mbps versus 14.96Mbps.
Upload speeds were nearly the same.
Telkom Mobile network performance (Speed with a VPN on the right)
Telkom told MyBroadband that its roaming agreement with Vodacom doesn’t make provision for a differentiated experience between roaming-Telkom and Vodacom subscribers.
“Keep in mind that the Telkom roaming agreement supports access to Vodacom’s 2G/3G/LTE services in the frequency bands 900MHz, 1,800MHz, and 2,100MHz,” said Telkom.
It added that the agreement does not allow Telkom customers access to services that Vodacom offers to other partners, like Rain.
“The roaming agreement only relates to the access network and excludes the transport, core, Internet breakout, and the product. All of which impacts the customer experience,” Telkom said.
The company said the scenario where a Telkom SIM connecting to Edge in a Vodacom 4G area should not happen, and is probably caused by a configuration error.
“In addition, specifically for data, the complex roaming configuration – based on the 4G MOCN standard – is currently being audited at national level, both in the Telkom and Vodacom networks,” Telkom said.
It said that the roaming partners are working together to urgently resolve any area-specific configuration issues.
Telkom said it is difficult to give specific feedback about the potential throttling issues without more details of the use-case.
“Telkom products, such as LIT, make use of fair usage policies, therefore throttling/restrictions of services only apply if stated in the Fair Usage Policy (FUP). It is possible that the VPN bypassed the FUP,” Telkom said.