Lockdown speeds – One mobile network is getting hammered and suffers more than others

The national lockdown which started on 27 March has had a negative impact on the average mobile network performance in South Africa.

Most South Africans are now housebound, which means they are consuming more mobile data to work from home, surf the web, and stream videos and music.

This increased demand for data has resulted in the national average download speed declining from 25.3Mbps between 1-14 March to 21.8Mbps during the lockdown (27 March-27 April).

The performance deterioration can also be seen in the average latency, which increased from 45ms before the lockdown to 50ms during the lockdown.

Performance data

This performance data is based on 115,500 mobile speed tests which were performed using MyBroadband’s speed test app.

To ensure the results were not skewed by a single user, device down-sampling was used to get the average performance per user.

The average download speed, upload speed and latency for all users on a network was also calculated.

The chart below shows the average download speed on all mobile networks before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.

Individual networks

All mobile networks in South Africa have experienced a decline in average performance during the lockdown.

The hardest hit was Rain, which saw its average download speed decline from 14.9Mbps to 6.9Mbps.

Cell C was the least affected. Its average download speed declined from 14.8Mbps to 14.3Mbps.

The table below provides an overview of the change in the average download speeds between 1-14 March and 27 March-27 April.

Change in Network Performance
Mobile Operator 1-14 March Lockdown Change
Rain 14.9Mbps 6.9Mbps -53%
Telkom 13.8Mbps 11.2Mbps -19%
MTN 40.7Mbps 34.0Mbps -17%
Vodacom 25.6Mbps 24.0Mbps -6%
Cell C 14.8Mbps 14.3Mbps -3%

Rain

Rain’s network is severely affected by the lockdown. Its average download speed declined 53% from 14.9Mbps to 6.9Mbps.

This is not surprising, and Rain offers unlimited data packages and their subscribers now use these for bandwidth-intensive services like video streaming.

Its off-peak unlimited data bolt-on services, which offer unmetered data usage between 23:00 and 18:00, will also be used more during lockdown.

Most people would have been sleeping or at the office during this time before the lockdown, but they are now at home using this data for work or online entertainment.

Additional spectrum will help Rain to alleviate its network congestion, and it has been allocated temporary spectrum in the IMT2600 band.

However, Rain CEO Willem Roos told MyBroadband the frequencies allocated was not what they asked for.

The is because the frequencies which Rain received are not suitable for rapid deployment with their current radios.

This issue can be rectified by rearranging the temporary frequency allocation in the band, and Roos said they are working with ICASA to achieve this goal.

The chart below shows the average download speed on Rain’s network before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.


Telkom

Telkom’s mobile network is under strain due to the lockdown, with the average download speed declining 19% from 13.8Mbps to 11.2Mbps.

Like Rain, its challenge is its large and unlimited data packages. People use more data during the lockdown for streaming media and working from home.

Good news is that Telkom has received additional temporary spectrum which it is currently deploying.

The chart below shows the average download speed on Telkom’s network before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.


MTN

The average download speed on MTN’s network declined by 17% from 40.7Mbps to 34.0Mbps during the lockdown.

While the impact of increased demand on MTN’s network is visible, the high average speed means most consumers will not have any complaints.

At an average speed of 34Mbps, online services like web surfing and streaming will work as expected without any problems.

The chart below shows the average download speed on MTN’s network before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.


Vodacom

Vodacom’s network showed a 6% decline in average download speed, from 25.6Mbps to 24.0Mbps.

This decline is not significant enough to frustrate consumers, which is why there are not many complaints regarding Vodacom’s network performance.

Vodacom has received temporary spectrum and the operator is currently working to deploy this spectrum across its network.

The chart below shows the average download speed on Vodacom’s network before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.


Cell C

Cell C experienced the lowest lockdown impact on its network speed. Its average download speed only declined 3% from 14.8Mbps to 14.3Mbps.

This is partly a result of it roaming on MTN’s network in many regions, which offers the highest network performance in South Africa.

The chart below shows the average download speed on Vodacom’s network before the state of disaster was announced, after the state of disaster was announced, and during the lockdown.


Now read: New spectrum – What you can expect from Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Rain

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Lockdown speeds – One mobile network is getting hammered and suffers more than others