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MTN takes the prize in a close South Africa video experience race

OpenSignal's recent report on the South Africa mobile market showed something of a two-horse race. While Vodacom dominated our awards table, taking six out of seven of our mobile experience crowns, MTN won our coveted 4G availability award and came a close second in almost all our other categories. But in our new video experience analysis, MTN didn't have to settle for second in the awards table: it scored a narrow win over Vodacom in our overall video experience measurements. South Africa's other national operators did not perform too badly though, and the gap between the leaders and Cell C and Telkom was closer than we've typically seen across our other metrics.

Our new video experience analysis calculates a score on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the best video experience possible. In South Africa, both MTN and Vodacom rated a Good score (55-65), while the country's other two operators landed in the Fair (40-55) category. We define a Good score as characterized by video streamed from the internet to a phone or tablet rendering at both low and high resolutions, but exhibiting some loading time before playback begins and some stalling, especially at HD resolutions. Meanwhile our users on a network with a Fair score would typically experience long loading times and frequent stalling at high resolutions, but better quality at low resolutions. (For more details on video experience see this blog post.)

SA video chart

MTN and Vodacom's scores were in the middle of the Good category, the second-highest rating achieved by any of the 69 countries we analyzed in our global State of Mobile Video report. Vodacom's score of 58.6 puts it within 3 points of MTN's 60.9, while Cell C and Telkom brought up the rear with scores of 50.2 and 46.7 respectively.

So how did South Africa perform in comparison to the rest of the world? Not too badly, for a market that is still maturing. South Africa's national score of 55.9 landed it distinctly mid-table among the 69 countries we analyzed globally, and the country beat some arguably more developed mobile markets including France, Ireland and Russia.

South Africa also typified a trend we have observed concerning the relationship between a decent video experience and network speed. Surely the faster an operator's download speed, the better the video experience, right? Not necessarily. We tracked a fairly close correlation between video experience and overall download speed measurements at the lower end of the table, but this relationship became much less obvious as scores improved. Global winner the Czech Republic didn't even make our top 10 when it came to overall download speed, while our top country in overall download speed, South Korea, only managed a placing of 16th in video experience. Mid-table South Africa was right on the cusp of the change we observed between the higher and lower countries. In our recent State of Mobile Networks: South Africa report, we saw Vodacom win our overall download speed crown, followed closely by MTN. But the other two operators were much further behind the leaders in this metric than in our video experience analysis.

What's your experience of watching video on mobile devices in South Africa? Have you observed much of a difference in video experience between networks? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.