Mobile Internet speeds beating fixed in South Africa

New research by market and network intelligence firm Analytico has revealed that average mobile network download speeds in South Africa are higher than those of fixed Internet connections.

Across tens of thousands of speed tests from the MyBroadband Speed Test mobile app in the second quarter of 2024, mobile Internet users recorded an average download speed of 69.80Mbps.

The average download speed for fixed Internet users — those who performed speed tests on a computer or while connected to Wi-Fi — was 57.63Mbps, around 17% slower.

In addition, the average latency on mobile Internet connections was slightly lower than on fixed broadband.

The only area where fixed connections were better was upload speed — with an average of 42Mbps compared to 15.86Mbps for mobile networks.

With the fixed upload speed so much closer to the download data rate, it suggests that many fixed broadband users were connected to symmetric connections.

The lower fixed download speeds can be explained by the fact that many typical fixed-line packages — like fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) — cap speeds rather than consumption.

For example, many entry-level home fibre packages from major networks currently have download speeds capped between 25Mbps and 75Mbps.

That is more than sufficient for most households’ requirements.

Mobile networks also throttle speeds on uncapped fixed-LTE or fixed-5G packages. However, these are generally used in a home Wi-Fi router and would be recorded as a fixed Internet connection.

The mobile network packages on which the speed test users recorded high download speeds excluded these options.

It should be emphasised that FTTH, in particular, offers more consistent performance than mobile connectivity as users get dedicated line capacity rather than sharing spectrum with multiple users.

The table below summarises the results from Analytico’s comparison of mobile and fixed Internet speeds measured on the MyBroadband Speed Test platform in the second quarter of 2024.

Fixed vs mobile Internet speeds in South Africa
Q2 2024
Fixed  Mobile 
Download speed 57.63Mbps 69.80Mbps
Upload speed 42.00Mbps 15.86Mbps
Latency 36.76ms 35.43ms

The average mobile download and upload speeds improved from 66.82Mbps and 15.42Mbps, respectively, in the first quarter of 2024.

One likely contributor to the impressive mobile data speeds is the lack of load-shedding during the quarter.

The rotational power cuts can cause significant degradation in mobile network quality and speeds.

If a tower’s backup capacity runs out, users could have their connections rerouted to other towers, which can become congested.

With fewer resources to go around, the speed available to each user on the remaining online towers reduces.

Another factor has been the continued improvement in 4G coverage and the expansion of 5G networks by Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom.

5G is the latest generation mobile connectivity standard, supporting theoretical download throughputs of 20Gbps and uploads of 10Gbps.

That is more than the maximum 1Gbps download speed of South Africa’s fastest generally available FTTH packages.

In real-life performance, MyBroadband has recorded mobile 5G speeds well into the hundreds of megabits per second on all three of the biggest networks.

In October 2022, Vodacom claimed to have hit a peak 2.4Gbps download speed during a 5G trial at its headquarters in Midrand, Gauteng.

When MyBroadband tested the network’s claims in a similar scenario, we achieved 1.8Gbps while connected to the same tower.

In early 2023, at least one Vodacom MyBroadband Speed Test user measured a download speed of over 1Gbps, while MTN and Telkom users recorded peak speeds over 700Mbps in the same period.

The screenshots below show how Vodacom and MTN’s 5G networks have expanded since early 2023.

Vodacom 5G coverage

Vodacom’s 5G coverage in Gauteng and further north in March 2023
Vodacom’s 5G coverage in July 2024

MTN 5G coverage in Gauteng

MTN’s 5G coverage in Gauteng and surrounds in March 2023
MTN’s 5G coverage in Gauteng and surrounds in July 2024

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Mobile Internet speeds beating fixed in South Africa