Mobile network speed changes in South Africa

MyBroadband Insights’ Q3 2020 Mobile Network Quality Report showed that MTN offers the fastest mobile speeds in South Africa, while Rain’s speeds are the lowest.

The report is based on 334,257 speed tests which were performed by thousands of MyBroadband Speed Test App users across South Africa between 1 July and 30 September 2020.

MTN topped the list with average download speed at 55.11Mbps, followed by Vodacom on 29.80Mbps, Telkom on 23.60Mbps, Cell C on 17.82Mbps, and Rain on 10.02Mbps.

What is interesting to note is that the average network speed of South Africa’s mobile operators increased despite higher levels of network traffic during the lockdown.

This was made possible by temporary spectrum, which was issued to mobile operators during the lockdown.

There was one exception – Rain. The average download speed on Rain’s network declined significantly during the lockdown because of congestion problems.

Rain CEO Willem Roos explained their objective for its 4G network is not to provide the fastest network experience, but to provide unlimited data products at workable wireless broadband speeds.

He added that Rain has increased the number of 4G towers from 2,000 in 2018 to more than 6,000 today.

However, the average number of users on the network has increased at a much higher pace, which will lead to lower average speeds.

How mobile network speeds changed from 2018

With the advances in mobile network technologies and smartphones, one would expect the average speed which users experience to increase over time.

This is exactly what happened with MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, and Cell C, albeit with varying degrees of improvement.

MTN’s continued network investment is the best example of what is possible. Its average download speed increased from 27Mbps in Q1 2018 to the current level of 55Mbps.

Vodacom and Telkom have also invested heavily in network upgrades, but their speed improvements are less pronounced.

One of the reasons for this is that the additional network capacity is consumed by additional subscribers and higher network use.

This shows that mobile networks have to invest billions in their networks merely to main the current service levels of their subscribers.

Rain is an anomaly in terms of network performance over the last two-and-a-half years. Its average download speed consistently declined over the period.

Rain’s network has been dogged by congestion as its subscriber base increased, which is behind the declining speeds.

The charts below show the change in the average download speed of South Africa’s five mobile operators over the last three years.

MTN – From 26.98Mbps in Q2 2018 to 55.11Mbps in Q3 2020 (104% increase)

Vodacom – From 27.83Mbps in Q2 2018 to 29.80Mbps in Q3 2020 (7% increase)

Telkom – From 17.60Mbps in Q2 2018 to 23.60Mbps in Q3 2020 (34% increase)

Cell C – From 15.93Mbps in Q2 2018 to 17.82Mbps in Q3 2020 (12% increase)

Rain – From 21.38Mbps in Q2 2018 to 10.02Mbps in Q3 2020 (57% decline)

Now read: Disappearing airtime on Vodacom and Cell C

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Mobile network speed changes in South Africa