Why I would still recommend giving Rain a shot — after some challenging connection experiences

I have had two rather negative experiences with Rain 5G’s connection quality.

Still, the operator’s convenience-oriented business model and willingness to try and rectify technical issues mean I can continue to vouch for them.

My story begins about two years ago after I purchased a Rain 5G package because my landlord refused to let me get fibre, despite it being available in the neighbourhood.

At the time, I had been using Rain’s 24/7 4G uncapped package for several months.

While I had a much better experience than the many other users complaining about degraded performance in peak periods, its 10Mbps maximum speed was just not enough — especially when downloading massive Call of Duty: Warzone updates.

For an uncapped 4G package, this thing was capable.

When Rain launched its cheaper Basic 5G package with speeds of 25Mbps, I immediately took up the offer.

Out of the box, download speeds reached 25Mbps without a problem, but the uploads rates were terrible, typically ranging between 0.5Mbps and 2Mbps.

The latter is not a problem for the needs of most households, but to avoid packet loss in multiplayer games, you often require at least a few Mbps upload.

I tried adjusting my router at every possible angle and location in my apartment to optimise its connection, but no dice.

Fortunately, I could change some settings on my router and use Rain’s 4G network instead.

I found I could get the same 25Mbps download speed with a matching upload speed.

This came at the cost of a slightly higher ping, which could impact fast-paced multiplayer shooters.

But I decided the slightly poorer latency was the better of the two devils and permanently set my router only to use 4G.

I took this picture to recall in exactly what spot and angle I put the router to achieve a barely usable 5G upload speed, just in case my domestic worker moved it during cleaning. It was a hassle.

My workaround came to an end when Rain switched its 5G network to a standalone configuration, which might have improved the 5G experience for many, but cut me off from 4G.

I contacted Rain and asked about the possibility of getting a better router to improve my upload speeds. They sent a technician out shortly after that.

Unfortunately, the place I had found using my primitive methods was the best indoor spot for optimal signal, and I could not install the outdoor router he recommended that would increase my upload speeds.

That was due to stringent home owner’s association rules forbidding street-facing antennas or dishes in the complex I was living in.

I was forced to cancel the package, which was done in a matter of seconds on the online MyRain portal and with no quibble from the operator.

When I queried the issue afterwards, Rain chief technology officer Gustav Schoeman went to great effort to explain that I technically fell outside their 5G coverage, despite the map showing my address was right on the edge.

Fast forward to 2022, and I have found myself in an eerily similar predicament.

We recently moved from an apartment with gloriously fast and reliable fibre connectivity to a garden cottage with no fibre immediately available.

A few days before moving in, I checked the Rain website to see if we had 5G coverage.

We were in luck, but once again, our address was right on the edge of coverage, bringing back memories of endless struggles.

However, I was cognisant of how easy it would be to cancel the Rain package if it didn’t perform to expectation, and again I placed an order for Rain 5G Basic.

I figured this should be my first stop, as taking a 5G or fixed-LTE package from most of Rain’s rivals either required having an expensive router or being tied into a long-term contract.

Soon after I placed my order, a Rain consultant called and said she noticed we were on the edge of coverage and might have issues getting connected.

She offered to send out a technician on the same day, a Friday, but I opted to test the connection over the weekend and let her know how it went the following week.

Unfortunately, the Oppo indoor 5G router, although much more compact than the Huawei units I had become familiar with, struggled to get a stable connection.

The same Rain consultant followed up early on Monday morning, and I informed her of the problems.

She booked a technician for 09:00 on Tuesday, after confirming I would be available at our cottage at that time.

The techie arrived at 09:00 sharp, and I explained my predicament.

After moving around the house with three different types of routers and trying to get a stable connection outside for around an hour, he admitted initial defeat.

He explained that the nearest tower to our location was actually less than 1km away, but a large hill between our house and that base station was blocking its signal.

Instead, our router connected to a tower over 2.5km in the other direction, with several large trees in the way.

After informing the Rain consultant about the issues, the network insisted they send another technician to try and correct the problem.

When I arrived at home after 18:00 that evening, I was greeted by three bakkies, a team of four network engineers, and the same technician who had tried his best to get a reliable connection earlier in the morning.

They explained they had spent the day from around noon trying to improve the signal to our house, which included angling up one of their 5G radios on the tower.

They said they wanted to see if this had improved the connection, as we should have been within coverage.

Within five minutes, one of the engineers was on the roof with a Huawei outdoor router fitted to a pole to test speeds on a possible outdoor installation.

The tower adjustments had seemed to work, with the upload speeds now ranging between 4-6Mbps and download speeds around 150Mbps.

Unfortunately, only a few tests were possible as a thunderstorm was heading in quickly.

The team said they would be ready to do an outdoor installation early the next day as soon as I gave the go-ahead, and gave me one of their numbers for quick contact.

However, after checking the signal inside the house, I found that the Oppo router could now maintain a consistent connection.

Upload speeds had improved to around 1.5-2.5Mbps, and download speeds sat just below 70Mbps.

I contacted the head of the network team that had visited my home, and said we were satisfied with the connection’s performance inside the house.

He then offered to switch out the indoor router with the Huawei outdoor router, and I accepted, saying I would test it myself rather than have them go to the trouble of sending someone out again.

Upon testing, I found the upload speeds on this router measured a solid 5-6Mbps after I managed to point the router in the right direction. This was more than enough for our needs.

A worthy contender

Rain was the first major network to adopt 5G in South Africa.

The technology’s promise of offering fibre-like speeds and latency was a lifesaver for many who did not have fibre-to-the-home in their area.

Although 5G is susceptible to environmental obstacles — like other wireless technologies —  and despite my mixed experiences, I have no problem recommending Rain or its 5G products to others.

It is possible Rain figured out I work for MyBroadband, leading to the repositioning of radio antennas on the tower and a squad of engineers visiting my home.

However, other aspects of the experience, like the ease of getting your hardware and SIM, a quick activation process, getting a technician over to look for the best place for optimal signal, having the option of a professional outdoor installation at no additional cost, and a simple online-only cancellation — are available to every customer.

That’s not even mentioning the fact that Rain is generally cheaper than its competitors and imposes no fair usage policies on its packages.

I have tried getting a month-to-month contract from a rival mobile network, and the experience was not comparable.

I had to go into a store and spend about an hour taking out the package, only to get billed the incorrect amounts on several occasions.

The terrible cancellation process also meant I had to speak to some higher-ups at the company after the customer care centre failed to answer my call within half an hour of being put on hold.

Even though I have yet to experience an “it just works” Rain 5G connection at home, I know many out there have had the pleasure of such an experience.

Testament to this is that Rain has several devout users on the MyBroadband forum — a place our most regular readers will know does not have the most forgiving crowd, particularly regarding Internet connection reliability.

So if you are ever in an area with Rain 5G coverage and your other options are fixed-LTE packages, some of which are long-term contracts, give South Africa’s upstart operator a try.

If you are unsatisfied with the performance, you can always cancel with no fuss and a minimal impact on your bank account.

This is an opinion piece.

Now read: Telkom 5G price shocker — demolished by Rain and MTN

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Why I would still recommend giving Rain a shot — after some challenging connection experiences