So which mobile operator customers enjoy the best network quality?

It isn’t exactly a close race between MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Cell C and Rain …
The highest and lowest scores indicate that at this point it’s a trade-off betweeen affordability and customer experience. Image: Shutterstock

MTN and Rain have bookended the Q3 2021 Mobile Network Quality Report released by MyBroadband, with the former maintaining its top position and the latter again rated the worst mobile network provider in SA.

“For the most part, the mobile network operators provide excellent service and products to their customers, and we’ve seen a steady improvement in network quality for most operators over the last few years,” says Marius Hollenbach, MyBroadband Insights Director.

The report was based on 306 303 speed tests performed by thousands of MyBroadband Speed Test App users across the country.

Overall score

The network quality score was calculated for each network using download speed (60%), upload speed (20%), and latency (20%).

MTN continued to lead the way in terms of overall network quality:

  • MTN – 9.58
  • Vodacom – 6.25
  • Telkom – 5.18
  • Cell C – 4.09
  • Rain – 3.42.


According to the report, between July 1 and September 30, SA’s mobile users enjoyed an average download speed of 40.40 megabits per second (Mbps) and an average upload speed of 13.66Mbps.

“The average download speed in South Africa increased by more than 10Mbps since the beginning of 2020, which is thanks to increased network investment and temporary spectrum issued to mobile operators during the lockdown,” according to MyBroadband.

“This temporary spectrum helped mobile networks to increase their network capacity and improve their average speeds during the lockdown.”

MTN boasted the highest average download speed, with its rivals considerably far behind:

  • MTN – 68.79Mbps
  • Vodacom – 39.37Mbps
  • Telkom – 29.24Mbps
  • Cell C – 19.88Mbps
  • Rain – 10.86Mbps.

Top and tail

MTN customers benefitted from a R50 billion network investment that has helped the mobile network operator extend its coverage, improve its network quality, and increase speeds.

“MTN’s exceptional performance results from outspending its rivals on infrastructure investment over the past five years,” according to MyBroadband.

Read: MTN to invest over R170m in Eastern Cape network

Rain, meanwhile, had some ups and downs to contend with.

Its support and network quality declined significantly when lockdown hit in April last year, according to BrandsEye and Deloitte Africa’s 2020 South African Telco Sentiment Index.

Customers reported delays in service turnaround, a lack of response from the network provider, and poor network quality. These negative sentiments continued into the current year.

However, MyBroadband offers some context, explaining that: “Rain struggled with the rapid increase in subscribers and the additional data usage demands brought on by the lockdown.”

While many have suggested the network’s affordability approach came at the expense of customer experience, the report notes that Rain has “made significant strides in improving the size of its networks”.


Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.


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The article talks about network quality in general, but fails to differentiate between network quality, in the suburbs, compared to the townships.

Some townships are still on 3G and are still waiting to be upgraded to 4G.

You are getting soft!

The townships are previously and currently disadvantaged and the majority. 85% of towers, spectrum and capacity must immediately be moved to the townships and rural settlements.

Hmmm, this might be your observation, but in this small rural town, the only working combined VC/MTN tower is on the edge of the lokasie, covers that area well, but on the completely other side of town where I stay, we have a poor signal and coverage. But one’s experience of data speeds, coverage can be very dependent on the places, that you mostly stay or visit.
Besides data speeds, there are many other factors to consider like value for money, coverage and customer experience.
This is also well reflected in the comments below the original article on MyBB.
Rain and the prepaid Cell C large data bundles might offer great value for money, but data speeds are behind the other two.
I had a very bad personal customer experience with repair of a VC phone still under guarantee, brought into Vodacare ( couldn’t care less) centre, the last phone in the family still on that network, somewhere 2008 or 2009. We had all migrated to Virgin Mobile prepaid at that time as they had the best same net call rates. And Cell C just put up a new tower this part of town in 2008. We later moved mostly to Cell C and to a lesser degree TM. Unfortunately Cell C closed down their own towers.
A dual SIM phone with different SIMs will guarantee you the best coverage, although it is not really worthwhile to have large, attractively priced data bundles on both of them.

You are asking for BEE that favours the poor. Not possible in the current environment where factories close down so that the connected can hijack the business through imports.

Imagine if ARC could value MTN. Trillions I tell you, trillions. Imagine the management fees on those journal entries.

I don’t think speed is necessarily a good proxy for quality. As a mobile worker doing mainly data driven conference calls, I would happily pay 5x my current mobile data costs (which have fallen dramatically in the past 3 years) for 1/20th the advertised speed if a better more reliable quality of service could be offered in areas where I get >3 bars of network signal. For example, give me an option to pay to switch to 1Mbps with guaranteed reliable performance at that speed when needed.

You are 100% correct. Speed can degrade very easily. The networks are implemented on best effort forwarding of traffic. Hence for quality you need to evaluate a few things:

– Over subscription rate
– Coverage in low density areas
– Reliability during load shedding events

The network equipment supports traffic differentiation for subscribers willing to pay a premium but the marketing sleepy heads fail to develop this offering.

All these companies are very expensive, bring in the competition like in India.

End of comments.



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