Damning evidence against Vodacom’s network claim

Vodacom claims it has the “best quality network” in South Africa, but research backed by the operator itself shows that MTN reigns supreme.

On 21 June, Vodacom sent a press statement claiming to have the “best quality network” in South Africa.

Vodacom cited research by crowdsourced data company Tutela, which assessed South African consumers’ mobile network experiences.

“Vodacom outranks its rivals in delivering the best quality 4G and 5G coverage in South Africa and consistent quality for mobile connections,” the mobile operator said.

Vodacom SA technology director Beverly Ngwenya claimed their customers receive an “unsurpassed experience when it comes to their network quality experience”.

These claims surprised many industry players as all prominent independent tests, which Vodacom backed in the past, showed that MTN has a substantial network quality lead over Vodacom.

MyBroadband’s controlled drive tests and crowdsourced network performance data showed that MTN has the best mobile network in South Africa.

MTN’s average download speed of 73.39 Mbps in Q1 2022 is nearly double that of Vodacom at 44.32 Mbps.

MTN’s average upload speed of 24.83Mbps is more than double Vodacom’s 11.89Mbps.

MyBroadband Insights’ drive tests in Gauteng further showed that MTN had far better 5G coverage and far superior network performance.

This network performance data is in line with other independent network quality and performance research by firms like Ookla.

Ookla, the company behind Speedtest.net, shows that MTN’s median download speed is 51.76Mbps, much higher than Vodacom’s 36.17Mbps.

MTN, at 88.1%, also had a much higher consistency score than Vodacom with 84.3%, and MTN’s 5G speed of 213.37Mbps dwarfed Vodacom’s 132.11Mbps.

Considering the overwhelming evidence that MTN has the best mobile network in South Africa, it is curious that Vodacom would still try to claim to have the “best quality network”.

The table below shows a comparison of network quality between Vodacom and MTN based on objective research by MyBroadband Insights and Ookla.

Network Quality – Vodacom versus MTN
MyBroadband Insights
Measure Vodacom MTN Winner
Average Download Speed 44Mbps 73Mbps MTN
Average Upload Speed 12Mbps 25Mbps MTN
Average Latency 35ms 38ms Vodacom
Average 5G Download Speed 144Mbps 246Mbps MTN
Average 5G Upload Speed 27Mbps 50Mbps MTN
Average 5G Latency 29ms 25ms MTN
Percentage of tests on 5G 36% 54% MTN
Measure Vodacom MTN Winner
Median Download Speed 36Mbps 52Mbps MTN
Median Latency 23ms 23ms Draw
Consistency Score 84.3% 88.1% MTN
Median 5G Download Speed 132Mbps 213Mbps MTN

Nothing new for Vodacom

MyBroadband spoke to industry players, and they highlighted that it is nothing new for Vodacom to fish around for any data, however questionable, to claim to have the best network.

In 2017, Vodacom claimed to have had the “best network for 3 years in a row”.

The Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa ruled that Vodacom’s claim was misleading and should be withdrawn.

What is telling, and what MTN argued at the time, was that Vodacom previously relied on network speed test data from MyBroadband Insights and Ookla to back its claims.

When data from MyBroadband Insights and Ookla no longer substantiated its claims, Vodacom switched to the SA Consumer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi).

The SAcsi uses consumer surveys rather than network quality tests to rank operators, which is why Vodacom selected this option.

Vodacom knew it did not have the best quality network but fished around for any way to continue making this claim without truly outperforming MTN’s network.

One industry player who asked to remain anonymous said Vodacom’s strategy is not to build the best network before claiming it is the best.

Instead, it is looking for a shortcut to claim to have the best network and dilute MTN’s messaging.

“Their argument is ‘what can we defend legally’ rather than ‘what is the truth’. There is a big difference between the two,” he said.

Another industry expert said Vodacom is harming the industry by downplaying the importance of multi-billion network investments to build a quality network.

“With the decade-long battle to get spectrum, and mobile operators spending billions to improve their network quality, it is disappointing that Vodacom wants to dismiss the hard work and money that goes into creating a world-class network,” he said.

If anyone can claim to have the best network using dubious data, it belittles what it takes to create a world-class network.

“This can give politicians ammunition to show that the spectrum and large investments are not needed to create great national networks — as Vodacom previously claimed,” he highlighted.

No comment from Vodacom

MyBroadband asked Vodacom why it claims to have the best network when objective research shows MTN reigns supreme, but it did not provide an answer.

Vodacom would also not say why it moves from one research platform to the next to claim it has the best network.

Now read: Vodacom must stop calling itself “SA’s Best Network” – ASA

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Damning evidence against Vodacom’s network claim