African Rainbow Capital Investments (ARC) co-CEO Johan van Zyl admitted that Rain’s network quality is not good enough and that they are working hard to address the problems.
ARC released its interim financial results on 18 March 2021 which revealed that its 20.37% shareholding in Rain makes up 27.3% of the fund’s total value.
As the largest contributor to the ARC fund’s value, Rain plays an important part in the company’s success.
While Rain’s finances looked healthy, it has been a challenging year in terms of network quality and support. This was partly a result of rapid growth in subscriber numbers.
The lockdown a spike in demand and in sign-ups for Rain’s 4G and 5G services. New subscriptions jumped from between 10,000 and 20,000 per month before the lockdown to between 60,000 and 80,000 after the lockdown.
The unexpected increase in subscribers put tremendous pressure on Rain’s network and support channels, and service levels started to drop.
There was a backlash from subscribers who experienced deteriorating network quality without anyone to help.
The frustration from Rain subscribers was clearly illustrated in the company’s customer satisfaction score – the service provider plummeted to last place in the South African ISP rankings by mid-2020.
The charts below show the deterioration of Rain’s average download speed and average ISP ranking over the last two years.
ARC CEO Johan van Zyl explains
Speaking during an investor call on Thursday, Van Zyl admitted that Rain’s network is not good enough and that coverage is lacking in some areas.
He said although customer experience is important to Rain, the rapid growth last year saw service levels drop.
To address these problems, Rain has a three-pronged approach – improve coverage, protect against load-shedding outages, and employ more support staff.
Rain has expanded both its 4G and 5G networks over the last year and now has 685 active 5G and 7,000 active 4G sites.
This network expansion continues, and Rain is planning to increase the number of 5G sites to 1,150 by February 2022.
The company is also investing in high-end batteries to ensure the network stays up during load-shedding.
When Rain launched its 5G service it did not have large backup batteries to protect against load-shedding.
Instead, the towers were only equipped with small backup batteries to ensure the orderly shutdown of the base station when load-shedding hit.
Rain is now equipping its 5G sites with battery backup to keep the network going during load-shedding, which is set to continue for the foreseeable future.
To address the poor customer support, Rain grew its staff complement from 120 to 800. Most of the new staff members are support agents.
Customer satisfaction is also a key deliverable for Rain’s new management team to encourage improved performance.
“It is a work in progress, but customer satisfaction is top of mind,” said Van Zyl.