South African mobile network battle shows a clear winner – and a clear loser

MTN is by far the best mobile network in South Africa with an average download speed of 64.29Mbps. Rain is the worst with a speed of 10.58Mbps.

This was revealed in MyBroadband Insights’ Q1 2021 Mobile Network Quality Report which ranked South Africa’s mobile operators based on network performance.

MyBroadband Insights uses crowdsourced data from the MyBroadband Speed Test App and controlled drive tests to collect network performance data.

The latest report is based on 349,575 speed tests which were performed across South Africa between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021.

The research showed that South Africa had an average mobile download speed of 33.23Mbps and an average upload speed of 12.71Mbps.

The average download speed across all operators increased from 25.57Mbps in Q1 2020 to 33.23Mbps a year later.

This speed increase occurred despite a significant increase in traffic during the lockdown, which raises the question of how it was possible.

The answer is temporary spectrum which was issued to mobile operators during the lockdown.

This temporary spectrum helped mobile networks to increase their network capacity and improve their average speeds during the lockdown.

The chart below shows the average network speed across mobile operators over the past three years.

Average Download Speed
Average Download Speed in South Africa

Looking at the performance of individual operators revealed that MTN had the highest average download speed at 64.29Mbps over the last three months.

Vodacom was second on 32.76Mbps, followed by Telkom on 27.83Mbps, Cell C on 20.82Mbps, and Rain on 10.58Mbps.

MTN’s exceptional performance is a result of a R50-billion infrastructure investment over the past five years to extend coverage, improve network quality, and increase speeds.

Rain was the only operator whose year-on-year performance declined. Its average download speed plummeted from 15.20Mbps in Q1 2020 to 10.58Mbps in Q1 2021.

The decline in Rain’s network performance was likely a result of network congestion in some areas because of higher subscriber numbers.

To determine the best mobile network in South Africa, a “Network Quality Score” was calculated for each network using download speed, upload speed, and latency.

The Network Quality Score out of 10 then shows how a network performed in relation to other networks.

MTN reigned supreme with a Network Quality Score of 9.73, followed by Vodacom on 5.65, Telkom on 5.17, Cell C on 4.36, and Rain on 3.40.

The table below provides an overview of the mobile network rankings in South Africa.

Network Performance
Mobile Network Performance

Now read: Uncapped mobile data for R278 per month – if you work for government

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South African mobile network battle shows a clear winner – and a clear loser