Rain is facing a backlash from its subscribers for slow speeds and poor support which has been dogging the mobile operator for months.
A recent investigation by Devi, titled Breakdown in Communication, put the spotlight on Rain’s challenges.
According to the investigation, many Rain subscribers experienced deteriorating network quality when the lockdown hit.
At the same time, Rain’s customer support channels broke down, which left subscribers with nowhere to get help.
Rain’s problems are clearly reflected in the MyBroadband speed test and consumer satisfaction rankings over the past three years.
The operator’s network performance has declined every single quarter since the company first launched its mobile products in 2018.
Objective customer satisfaction ratings further show that Rain is now rated as the worst mobile operator and the worst Internet service provider (ISP) in South Africa.
The charts below show Rain’s average download speed and average ISP ranking over the last two years.
Why Rain is struggling
Rain’s story is as old as broadband in South Africa and mirrors the challenges faced by Sentech’s MyWireless service.
Sentech launched its uncapped MyWireless broadband products in 2004 to compete against Telkom’s ADSL.
At first, the company was seen as a consumer champion, but it quickly lost its lustre as network congestion caused poor service levels.
This resulted in consumer backlash that damaged the reputation of the company and product, something which Sentech never recovered from. MyWireless was discontinued in 2009.
When Rain launched its uncapped and high-cap products, it was warned that it will face network congestion problems in future.
In August 2018, for example, Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub warned Rain that it will face network capacity constraints in the future, which can cost a lot of money to fix.
This is now happening. Rain is facing congestion on many of its sites which is causing slow speeds and other connectivity problems.
The situation was aggravated by the rapid growth in Rain’s subscriber base since the lockdown started.
Rain’s sign-ups jumped from 10,000 to 20,000 per month to 60,000 and 80,000 per month in a matter of days.
This caused further capacity problems on its network, which in turn put tremendous pressure on its support channels.
Its support channels could not handle the influx of support requests, which left many Rain subscribers with near-unusable Internet and nowhere to turn.
A look at Rain’s network performance
MyBroadband’s quarterly mobile network performance testing results clearly show the problem Rain is facing.
To ensure accurate and comparable results over time, MyBroadband conducts drive tests in the same areas using the same network testing equipment.
The results are telling. Rain’s average download speed declined from 17.4Mbps in Q4 2019 to 11.3Mbps in Q3 2020.
While this decline may not look significant at face value, it is important to note that the decline is driven by sites where network congestion occurs.
The average download speed at Rain sites without network congestion actually increased over the last year.
The number of sites without network congestion, however, showed a drastic decline since the lockdown started.
In Q1 2020, 48% of Rain’s sites had an average download speed over 10Mbps. This figure plummeted to only 30% six months later.
This explains why so many Rain customers are now complaining about network congestion and why its support channels are overloaded with complaints.
The table below provides an overview of Rain’s deteriorating performance this year.
|Rain’s Network Performance|
|Quarter||Average Download Speed (Mbps)||Percentage towers over 10Mbps|
Rain CEO Willem Roos explains
Speaking on the Devi show, Rain CEO Willem Roos said it is fair to say they gave a poor customer service in certain areas.
Roos, however, dismissed reports that the network problems affected a significant portion of their subscribers.
He added that the speed test comparisons with other mobile networks are not fair, as you “get what you pay for”.
Roos explained that Rain customers should not expect the same service levels as MTN and Vodacom subscribers.
He compared Vodacom and MTN to three-star Michelin restaurants, while Rain should be seen as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“We hope we give you good food, but it will not be the same as a Michelin star restaurant,” he said.
Roos admitted that they did not have the capacity to cope with the influx of support queries after the lockdown started.
“We recognise that we have challenges in our customer service area, and we are working hard to fix those,” he said.
“We have already made significant progress in recent weeks by improving systems, processes, and appointing more staff.”
He added that Rain is working hard to increase both the coverage and capacity of its network.