How additional spectrum improved Telkom’s network performance

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown have put strain on telcos due to increased data demand from subscribers.

With many people working from home and relying on the Internet for their entertainment, Internet providers have seen a big increase in data usage.

The mobile operators have been particularly hard-hit, as they rely on licensed spectrum to offer data services.

To address the spectrum constraints, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) licensed temporary spectrum to mobile operators in April.

Five spectrum bands were made available for temporary assignment: 700MHz, 800MHz, 2,300MHz, 2,600MHz, and 3,500MHz.

The spectrum is available to operators for the duration of the national state of disaster to ensure operators maintain the quality and meet the demand of broadband services.

Telkom is one of the companies which received spectrum, and to see what the impact was on network performance MyBroadband assessed its average speeds.

Spectrum rollout and network performance

Telkom started to roll out the additional spectrum in June, and to assess the performance difference MyBroadband looked at two data sets:

  • Network performance from 1 January to 31 May 2020.
  • Network performance from 1 June to 31 August 2020.

The difference in performance from these two data sets was significant, with all major indicators showing improvement.

The average download speed increased from 20.5Mbps to 23.8Mbps and the average upload speed increased from 5.0Mbps to 7.2Mbps.

The biggest change was in latency, which decreased from 44ms to 29ms after the additional spectrum was deployed.

The spectrum issued by ICASA therefore served its purpose of improving network quality to meet subscribers’ additional demand and ensured network stability during the lockdown.

Telkom Network Performance
Component Before additional spectrum After additional spectrum Improvement
Download 20.499Mbps 23.776Mbps 16%
Upload 5.013Mbps 7.203Mbps 44%
Latency 44.09ms 28.65ms 35%

Now read: Why spectrum allocation is urgent – And temporary spectrum is not enough

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How additional spectrum improved Telkom’s network performance