Guess Which Mobile Operator Is The Best In South Africa?

Beautiful African American brunette woman smiling and take a selfie picture by phone with a hands near her mouth while standing autumn or spring forest outdoors wearing black jersey, smartphone
Beautiful African brunette woman smiling and take a selfie picture by phone with a hands near her mouth while standing autumn or spring forest outdoors wearing black jersey, smartphone (Photo Credit:

South African operators have been busy investing large sums of money to improve their 4G networks to enable their customers to have better coverage and experience faster downloads speeds.

To track these improvements over time, Opensignal – a global mobile analytics company, has published its latest South Africa Mobile Network Experience Report February 2019.

For this report, Opensignal compared the mobile network experience of South Africa’s four national mobile network operators Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom to see how each fared.

The company has also included regional analysis of the mobile user experience in four of South Africa’s biggest cities — Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane — covering all five of its award metrics in these metropoles.

One South African operator has dominated Opensignal’s awards for a couple of years now.

Vodacom has won or drawn all but one of Opensignal’s award categories since their first report on the market 18 months ago.

However, one of its rivals is now catching up: MTN won the 4G Availability award and drew with Vodacom in both the Download Speed Experience and Video Experience metrics, as well as winning or drawing with its rival in the majority of the regional awards.

MTN managed to increase its score by nearly 2 Mbps, catching up with Vodacom whose score stayed virtually static since the last report.

4G Availability

4G Availability has been MTN’s powerhouse metric.

The operator has won this award in the last three South Africa reports and drew with Vodacom in the Opensignal’s first analysis of the country.

In this report, MTN became the first South African operator to pass the 80% milestone, with a score of at least 5 percentage points ahead of its closest rival.

Cell C and Vodacom followed, both with scores in the 74-75% range in the measurements, while Telkom brought up the rear with 4G Availability of 71%

MTN had the highest score in 4G Availability category, increasing its score by over 2 percentage points. But all three of South Africa’s other national operators saw greater increases in the measurements, with Cell C showing the best improvement of over 6 percentage points, said Opensignal.

There is now less than 5 percentage points separating Cell C, Telkom and Vodacom in Opensignal’s 4G Availability metric — and this improvement is likely to be linked to fresh LTE roaming deals signed between Telkom and Vodacom, and Cell C and MTN in 2018.

“While these improvements are great for the mobile user experience in South Africa, MTN will have to keep on its toes if it wants to keep hold of 4G Availability crown,” said Opensignal.

Video Experience

Rivals MTN and Vodacom drew for Opensignal Video Experience award, in a close-run battle which saw both operators scoring just over 60 (out of 100).

Vodacom has managed to catch up with its rival after Opensignal’s first look at its new video metric in South Africa some three months ago. But the other two operators were some way behind the leaders, clearly delineating two levels of mobile video experience in the market.

Download Speed Experience

Opensignal saw the second draw among its national metrics in its Download Speed Experience category, where MTN managed to increase its average speed by close to 2 Mbps to catch up with Vodacom.

Vodacom won this award in the last report six months ago, but the operator has seen virtually no growth in this metric since then.

In Opensignal’s Download Speed Experience analysis the analytics company saw even more evidence of the two tiers of user experience in South African mobile.

MTN and Vodacom’s average speeds were both over 17 Mbps in the measurements, but Cell C and Telkom were some distance behind the leaders with scores of 9.2 Mbps and 10 Mbps respectively. And neither of the second tier operators has shown any significant growth over the past six months.

“As leaders MTN and Vodacom continue to pour investment into their South African networks, there is a risk this gap could turn into a chasm,” said Opensignal.

Upload Speed Experience

Opensignal saw a fairly close-run race in the Upload Speed Experience award, where Vodacom took the prize with an average score of 5.5 Mbps, followed by MTN’s 5.1 Mbps.

But, as in most of our other metrics, South Africa’s other two national operators were some way behind the top two, with Cell C scoring 3.3 Mbps and Telkom 3.2 Mbps in the measurements.

Interestingly, Vodacom managed to take the overall Upload Speed Experience award despite a drop of nearly 1 Mbps in its 4G Upload Speed. Vodacom and MTN had virtually identical scores in its upload measurements on their LTE networks, but while MTN’s stayed fairly steady over the past 6 months, Vodacom’s has dropped. But Vodacom’s higher 3G Upload Speed score allowed it to win our overall Upload Speed Experience award.

Latency Experience

Vodacom won the Latency Experience award pretty comfortably with a score of 38.3 milliseconds, over 15% better than its closest rival MTN.

Latency measures the delay users experience as data makes a round trip through the network, meaning the lower the latency score, the better. MTN came in second with a score of 45.2ms in our Latency Experience measurements, followed by Telkom on 54.4ms and Cell C with 57.2ms.

Regional Analysis

In Opensignal’s regional analysis of four of South Africa’s largest cities, it saw Telkom and Vodacom pass the 80% milestone in 4G Availability for the first time in one city. All four national operators scored over the 80% mark in Cape Town, with the improvements in this metric likely to be linked to the fresh roaming deals recently signed.

In terms of Download Speed Experience, both MTN and Vodacom have passed the 20 Mbps mark in three cities: Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane. “But these fairly impressive average speeds are further highlighting the huge gap between the two tiers of operators. Cell C and Telkom’s scores in these three cities were less than half the speed of both their rivals,” said Opensignal.

The close-run race in Opensignal’s national Upload Speed Experience award was also reflected in South Africa’s cities, where the company saw both MTN and Vodacom win one award each, while they shared the spoils in Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg.

In Latency Experience, the awards in the cities reflected the national experience with Vodacom winning in all four — and passing the 30ms milestone in Johannesburg and Tshwane.


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