Biggest problems with South African mobile networks

A report by PwC has revealed that mobile data causes the most conversation traffic between mobile networks and users, but SIM cards cause the most negative customer sentiment.

This is according to the public sentiment index report compiled by PwC in conjunction with DataEQ.

The report tracked 1,617,345 public mentions of South Africa’s mobile networks, namely Telkom, MTN, Vodacom, Rain, and Cell C, on social media between 1 January and 31 December 2023.

Public sentiment towards the telecommunications industry was among the lowest studied, at -18.8%, second only to Internet service providers (ISPs) (-41.2%).

Product-related conversations, which made up 40% of all engagement between company and consumer, were a significant contributor to the negative sentiment.

Data was the highest driver of product conversation between company and consumer, with an industry average volume of 35.6%.

Frustration around data also created a net public sentiment of -28.2%.

PwC noted that specific data-related issues included “data not being loaded despite payment, difficulties in purchasing data via mobile apps, missing data, data expiry or depletion, and data bundles that did not work.”

Rain was the only network operator with positive net sentiment related to data. The report notes that this is due to Rain’s social media posts involving data packages encouraging positive engagement with the brand.

Conversations between customers and consumers about SIM cards caused the most frustration, creating an industry net sentiment of -61.46%.

SIM card conversation volume was roughly a third of the volume of data-related engagement between company and consumer.

Below is a table showing mobile network products, their respective conversation volume, and net sentiment.

Network quality

Network quality was found to be a prevailing issue across all networks, with 33% of all complaints directed at operators concerning network quality.

“These complaints included reports of extended periods with no connection, lack of communication from the brand, unclear estimated time of resolution, unfulfilled promises, and frustration with data expiration without use,” the report notes.

Load-shedding was to blame for some of these network problems, exacerbating negative sentiment towards the industry.

For reference, the retail, insurance, and banking sectors all scored positive net sentiments of 8.8%, 16.1%, and 23.5%, respectively.

Load-shedding impacted service quality less in these sectors.

At the other end of the spectrum lie telecoms and ISPs — sectors that heavily depend on stable electricity supply close to customers’ homes and businesses for a positive consumer experience.

Analysis from the report included comparing the volume of network complaints to the average load-shedding stage each month.

This “reveals a direct correlation: as the average load-shedding stage increased, so did the percentage of network quality issues throughout the year.”

Below is a table showing this correlation.

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Biggest problems with South African mobile networks