How South African mobile networks are coping with the coronavirus

The global COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has seen many people now working from home, which is having a significant impact on mobile network traffic.

A recent Delta Partners report said some mobile operators have seen a 40% increase in voice traffic and a 25% increase in data traffic.

There was an even bigger impact on fixed networks. In some cases fixed broadband traffic increased by 65% because of the increase in video streaming.

These increased traffic volumes required network operators to increase network capacity and manage traffic loads to ensure a good customer experience.

In certain cases, spectrum had to be “borrowed” to increase service availability and mobile network capacity.

MyBroadband asked South African mobile operators if traffic on their networks increased, and whether they are ready for spikes in traffic usage.

Vodacom ramping up network investment

Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy told MyBroadband it is faced with a situation where they need to deal with increased traffic on their network as more people observe COVID-19 protocols and work from home.

“Our focus at the moment is ensuring we have measures in place to respond to current societal challenges through our social contract,” said Kennedy.

“We will be engaging with the regulator to gain access [to] spectrum on a temporary basis as well as quicker access to sites.”

Vodacom has also taken a decision to significantly ramp up investment spend in the short term to manage network congestion.

These measures, Kennedy said, will help Vodacom to cope with the increased volume of traffic – which will ultimately ensure people working from home enjoy a seamless experience.

Increase in traffic on MTN’s network

Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa, said they have seen an increase in traffic from both individual customers and business customers.

It is too early to definitively state the amount of data being used for work from home or e-learning situations, however.

“Most companies have only started implementing work-from-home yesterday after President Ramaphosa’s public announcement on Sunday,” said O’Sullivan.

She added that they continuously monitor their network capacity and have measures in place to deal with problems should they arise.

She encouraged customers to use LTE devices where possible and to report theft and vandalism of MTN’s infrastructure to limit network problems.

Increased traffic on Rain, but not Cell C

Rain CEO Willem Roos told MyBroadband they have seen increased traffic from both existing users and new users joining the network.

Traffic remains well within the capacity of the Rain network, Roos said.

“As mentioned previously, we have implemented, under certain circumstances, a limit of streaming quality to HD, on our 4G off-peak product,” said Roos.

“We have not seen any movement in our traffic from its normal trends to date, but should the need arise to accommodate for additional capacity this can be catered for.”

Cell C spokesperson Nicholas Cowen told MyBroadband they have not seen any movement in their traffic from normal trends to date.

Cowen said that should the need arise to accommodate for additional capacity, this can be catered for.

No comment from Telkom

MyBroadband asked Telkom for comment, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

Now read: Rain 5G tested – Video streaming, torrents, and a VPN

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How South African mobile networks are coping with the coronavirus