The national lockdown has seen many South Africans relying on mobile data and various communications platforms to stay in touch while physically isolated.
This has resulted in an increase in both Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call volumes and data usage, according to South African mobile networks.
VoIP calling includes platforms such as WhatsApp calls, in addition to Skype and Facebook Messenger calling.
To assist mobile networks in dealing with increased traffic, ICASA has allocated temporary spectrum to South African mobile networks.
This spectrum was allocated as follows:
It has also helped networks to cope with congestion and increased demand in population-dense areas.
MyBroadband spoke with South African networks to learn more about COVID-19 trends pertaining to VoIP call volumes and data usage.
MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said that they have seen a notable rise in both traditional and VoIP calls.
“Generally (pre-lockdown) there had been a decrease in the usage of traditional call minutes while VoIP usage continued to grow,” she said.
“The increased usage of 3G and 4G devices may contribute to VoIP popularity, however at this point consumers continue to utilise traditional voice calls and whilst there is still a need, MTN will continue serving its customers on both fronts.”
O’Sullivan also said there has been an increase in data usage.
“We have seen a spike, particularly on social platforms, Netflix, DStv and gaming data consumption,” said O’Sullivan.
She said that consumption rates have also shifted in accordance with the location of consumers.
“There has certainly been a shift in geographic consumption, with very low usage in CBDs and higher than normal usage in suburbs,” said O’Sullivan.
Vodacom said that while traditional voice calls were lower during lockdown than had previously been the case, it is starting to see a recovery towards historical trends.
In contrast, it said, VoIP traffic saw an “atypical increase,” and said that Wi-Fi offloading was a contributing factor to this.
Vodacom also saw an increase in demand for mobile data products.
“WhatsApp bundles were particularly more popular in April,” it said.
Cell C said is has seen varied increases in traffic across the different levels of lockdown.
This has spanned both voice and mobile data traffic, it said.
“Data consumption increased sharply over the initial level 5 lockdown and has dropped back slightly since level 4 and 3,” said Cell C.
“We have seen an increase in collaboration tools like [Microsoft] Teams and Zoom as more people adopt these during WFH [Work From Home].”
Cell C added that streaming has increased during lockdown because more people have been spending time online entertaining themselves.
“There has also been a significant increase in traffic to zero-rated public websites such as to higher education institutions,” it said.
Telkom said it could not comment on call and mobile data usage.