Telkom’s mobile network hit hard by lockdown usage

Telkom’s mobile network has taken a hit in recent weeks, with users experiencing slower download speeds and higher latency when compared to the period before the coronavirus lockdown started.

Over the last few weeks, Telkom customers have voiced their dissatisfaction regarding the performance of the operator’s fixed-LTE connectivity in particular.

According to MyBroadband’s speed test data, it appears the operator’s mobile network is also taking strain.

With the coronavirus lockdown in effect, South Africans are spending more time on the Internet.

Given the fact that the majority of the country accesses the Internet over a cellphone, it makes sense that mobile operators have seen data traffic on their networks surge.

Impact on Telkom

MyBroadband analysed speed test results from users on Telkom’s mobile network over six weeks from 6 March to 16 April 2020.

During this period, over 23,000 tests were conducted on MyBroadband’s Android speed test app.

Using these tests, we observed an average download speed decline of over 30% when comparing the week before the lockdown to the first week after its implementation.

Telkom’s average download speed of 15.2Mbps dropped to 9.8Mbps during the first week of lockdown.

These speeds have hovered around the same rate for the duration of the lockdown.

Average latency on Telkom’s network initially doubled from 41.5ms to 79.1ms. This since recovered to an average of 55.8ms in the third week of the lockdown.

The graphs below show how the average download speed and latency on Telkom’s mobile changed from three weeks before lockdown to three weeks after.

Telkom Download Speeds during lockdown


Additional spectrum

Fortunately for users, Telkom’s mobile network should benefit from ICASA’s temporary release of emergency spectrum to mobile operators.

This spectrum has been made available for the duration of the national state of disaster and is expected to ease network congestion, maintain the quality of broadband services, and enable licensees to lower the cost of access to consumers.

Telkom received 112MHz of spectrum for this purpose.

MyBroadband previously asked mobile operators, including Telkom, when they will start to use this spectrum.

Telkom spokesperson Noma Faku said the operator was working on a plan to deploy the allocated spectrum to areas with network congestion.

“Once the plan is completed, we will be in a better position to give an indication of when customers in those areas can expect improved network experience,” Faku said.

Telkom has taken issue with ICASA’s temporary assignment of spectrum in the 2,300MHz band, however, stating it was already licensed to Telkom.

ICASA hit back at the accusations and said that in terms of Regulation 6(2) of the COVID-19 Regulations, ICASA is allowed to temporarily assign radio frequency spectrum during a national disaster period.

“Furthermore, in assigning the temporary radio frequency spectrum for the national disaster period, the authority may deviate from the Radio Frequency Assignment Plans,” it added.

Telkom did not respond to questions about the performance of its network during the lockdown.


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Telkom’s mobile network hit hard by lockdown usage