Rain uncapped 5G – Why it won’t be a repeat of its fixed-LTE

Rain’s uncapped 5G service is currently a hot prospect in the local broadband market, offering uncapped connectivity for R1,000 per month.

Rain said 5G users can receive download speeds of up to 700Mbps and that it is a great alternative to fibre – making South Africans in coverage areas take notice.

And since launch, initial feedback from clients has been good.

Tests conducted by MyBroadband showed that the service works as advertised: delivering download speeds of 500Mbps and upload speeds of 16Mbps.

The slower upload speeds are a result of how Rain’s 5G network is configured.

However, the launch of Rain’s uncapped 5G package raises two questions:

  • Why will it succeed in offering true uncapped connectivity over cellular towers where others like Telkom have failed?
  • Why will Rain fixed-5G succeed when Rain’s previous product, fixed-LTE, had sales suspended due to capacity constraints?

Uncapped LTE

Telkom is the best example of an uncapped LTE offering which was launched and then radically transformed to cope with the limitations of mobile networks when serving uncapped data.

In December 2015, Telkom rolled out a promotional uncapped fixed-LTE offering for R599 per month across South Africa.

The SmartBroadband Uncapped High-Speed Wireless packages were available via select LTE base stations across 520 sites around the country.

In September 2016, Telkom then announced a new fair use policy (FUP) for its uncapped LTE service to cope with the demand on its network. This followed shortly after complaints of poor LTE performance from Telkom customers.

Telkom set a usage threshold of 300GB, after which the uncapped LTE connection would be throttled to 4Mbps.

When users hit 350GB, their connection was throttled to 2Mbps for the remainder of the month. Additionally, a separate cap of 50GB was set for peer-to-peer services such as BitTorrent.

“Our decision to implement the FUP is premised on our commitment to deliver a quality connectivity to experience to all our customers,” said Telkom at the time.

Fast forward to July 2018, and Telkom’s Big Deal for the month was an “Uncapped LTE All Hours” package for R899 per month.

The “All Hours” package provided users with uncapped LTE for 24 hours a day, but came with a strict FUP:

  • Users start with 150GB of data at 10Mbps.
  • When depleted they progress to 50GB at 4Mbps.
  • When depleted, will then receive uncapped data at 2Mbps.
  • Peer-to-peer and NNTP type protocols are further speed restricted.

More recently, in August 2019, Cell C also felt the strain fixed-LTE services place on its network, and shut down the fixed-LTE packages it offered through Internet Solutions to local ISPs.

Rain fixed-LTE

Rain itself has faced the pressure of delivering high-speed connectivity over fixed-LTE.

It launched fixed LTE packages – which were sold through local ISPs – in 2017 and offered data caps such as 120GB for R999 per month.

Plans to offer larger Rain fixed-LTE data packages of 200GB and more were also discussed by ISPs, along with Rain’s intention to compete directly with fixed-line connectivity providers.

This did not come to fruition, however, and in July 2018, Rain announced that it would suspend the sale of its fixed-LTE products through ISPs due to capacity constraints on its network.

The company said the popularity of its mobile products and its strong fixed-LTE sales put strain on its network, requiring it to manage its network capacity by halting fixed-LTE sales.

Rain said at the time that its fixed-LTE products may become available again as the capacity of its LTE network increases, but sales were never restarted.

Why 5G will deliver

In response to the questions above, Rain told MyBroadband that the first application for 5G in South Africa will be the ability to offer unlimited packages to homes and businesses – as it is undertaking currently.

The key to the success – and sustainability – of its 5G service will be the “massive increase in capacity” 5G offers over 4G.

In the case of 5G, this is 50- to 100-times more per site than 4G, said Rain.

“The 5G network is architected to accommodate dramatically more users that 4G,” said the company.

The increase in speeds 5G offers also ensures that users use the network in an ultra-efficient manner.

“Furthermore, Rain provides a high-quality 5G router, customised for the Rain 5G network, which makes efficient use of network resources.”

Additionally, Rain ensures 5G users are only taken on board and activated if they have sufficient signal quality and strength.

Users are required to run a speed test with their Rain 5G service and achieve a download speed of at least 80Mbps before their package will be activated.

“5G certainly holds the promise to provide great value, [and] unlimited offerings to homes and businesses,” concluded Rain.

Now read: Rain launches online RICA process

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Rain uncapped 5G – Why it won’t be a repeat of its fixed-LTE