Mobile Network Experience Report South Africa August 2019

South Africa

Mobile Network Experience Report
August 2019

Opensignal Active Userbase in South Africa
Total Devices
105,883
Total Measurements
259,426,348
Data Collection Period
May 01 Jul 29, 2019

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author
Peter Boyland Senior Analyst

Key findings

All four operators closing in on 80% 4G Availability

MTN remains the leader in our 4G Availability measurements, with a score of 83.6%. But the other three operators are all now within 2 percentage points of the 80% milestone — with Telkom's users seeing the biggest increase of over 8 points since our last report.

Download Speed Experience keeps improving, but Upload stalls

MTN and Vodacom shared our Download Speed Experience award, with all four operators improving their scores by at least 1 Mbps. But growth in our Upload Speed Experience scores is relatively stagnant, with only winner Vodacom seeing an incremental increase.

MTN and Vodacom on the verge of a Very Good Video Experience

MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Video Experience award, and both have increased their scores in the past six months, putting them on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings. Cell C also increased its score to tip over into a Good ranking (55-65).

Mobile networks are maturing in South Africa's cities

MTN scored over 90% in 4G Availability in two of South Africa's biggest cities, and was just shy of this milestone in the others. Meanwhile, MTN and Vodacom have now passed the 20 Mbps mark in Download Speed Experience in three cities each, while Vodacom's Video Experience ranked as Very Good in all the metros we analyzed.

Introduction

A quick look at our awards table would suggest not much has changed in South Africa since our last report in February. MTN won our 4G Availability award again, Vodacom kept hold of the medals for Upload Speed and Latency Experience, while the two operators tied for Download Speed and Video Experience just as they did six months ago.

But far from stagnating, we're seeing improvements across most of our measurements. All four of South Africa's national operators — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — are now closing in on 80% 4G Availability nationally, while at the urban level, MTN has passed the 90% mark in two cities. And in Download Speed Experience, our users on all four operators' networks saw their scores increase at least 8%.

In this report, we've analyzed the scores for all four national operators across all our metrics over the 90 days from the start of May 2019, including South Africa's five biggest cities — Cape Town, Durban, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Opensignal Awards Table

Mobile Experience Awards, South Africa
August 2019, South Africa Report
4G Availability
Video Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
Latency Experience
Download Image
Mobile Experience Awards Winners
August 2019, South Africa
4G Availability
Upload Speed Experience
Latency Experience
Mobile Experience Awards Draws
August 2019, South Africa
Video Experience
Download Speed Experience
Download Image

Overview

Click on metric labels below for a quick preview
4G Availability
% of time
Telkom
79.5
Cell C
78.3
MTN
83.6
Vodacom
78.6
0 21.25 42.5 63.75 85
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

National Analysis

4G Availability

MTN has been top of our South African 4G Availability leaderboard for a couple of years now, and the operator remains dominant with a winning score over 4 percentage points ahead of its rivals. But it was our users on Telkom's network who saw the most impressive boost in 4G Availability, as its score jumped by well over 8 percentage points. This leap has put Telkom into a three-way draw for second place with Cell C and Vodacom, who both saw their scores increase by at least 3 percentage points.

4G Availability
% of time
Telkom
79.5
Cell C
78.3
MTN
83.6
Vodacom
78.6
0 21.25 42.5 63.75 85
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

While MTN is the only operator to have passed 80% in national 4G Availability, the other three players are all less than 2 percentage points away from this milestone. Based on the current rate of improvement, we fully expect to see all four operators pass the 80% mark in our next report — which will provide testament to the rapid maturing of the South African mobile market. However, our recent global analysis showed the country wasn't the best in the continent when it came to 4G Availability.

Video Experience

MTN and Vodacom remain neck-and-neck in our Video Experience analysis, with both operators scoring 65 (out of 100). And the two rivals both saw their scores rise by around 3 points since our last report, meaning the two continue to share our Video Experience award. Cell C and Telkom remain in third and fourth place, but both saw larger increases — of 5 and 4 points respectively — to narrow the gap on the leaders.

Video Experience
in 0-100 points
Telkom
51.9
Cell C
57.2
MTN
65.0
Vodacom
64.9
Poor Fair Good Very Good Excellent
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Video Experience
Supporting Metrics
in 0-100 points
4G Video Experience
59.2 (± 0.78) 65.9 (± 1.06) 73.6 (± 0.46) 71.5 (± 0.42)
3G Video Experience
37.5 (± 1.46) 44.8 (± 2.18) 48.3 (± 1.44) 50.4 (± 1.07)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Video Experience in 0-100 points
59 (± 0.78)
66 (± 1.06)
74 (± 0.46)
71 (± 0.42)
3G Video Experience in 0-100 points
37 (± 1.46)
45 (± 2.18)
48 (± 1.44)
50 (± 1.07)
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Inc.

The increase in MTN and Vodacom's Video Experience scores means the two operators are on the cusp of Very Good (65-75) ratings in this metric — with our users on their networks enjoying fast loading video times and almost non-existent stalling, even at higher resolutions. By comparison, Cell C's score earned it a Good rating (55-65), while Telkom remains in Fair (40-55) territory — meaning our users watching video on Telkom's network in particular will likely struggle with longer load times and frequent stuttering, even at lower resolutions.

In terms of 4G-only Video Experience, Cell C's score has increased enough to tip it over into a Very Good rating — we now have three operators achieving 4G network scores with a Very Good ranking. And as 4G Availability continues to increase, our overall Video Experience scores will continue to climb, making mobile video viewing more of a viable proposition across all networks. And in a country where fixed-line broadband connections are relatively rare and the large majority of South Africans only connect to the internet via cellular, this improvement has the potential to transform people's lives.

Download Speed Experience

Looking at download speed, we are still seeing pretty clear evidence of two tiers of mobile network experience in South Africa. MTN and Vodacom remain tied for our Download Experience Award, with scores within a couple of megabits of the 20 Mbps mark. Meanwhile Cell C and Telkom remain in a distinct second tier, with scores at least 7 Mbps behind the leaders — although those scores are improving.

Download Speed Experience
in Mbps
Telkom
11.2
Cell C
10.7
MTN
18.6
Vodacom
19.3
0 5 10 15 20
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
Supporting Metrics
in Mbps
4G Download Speed
14.2 (± 0.27) 13.8 (± 0.40) 24.8 (± 0.43) 24.9 (± 0.34)
3G Download Speed
5.3 (± 0.16) 6.3 (± 0.24) 6.6 (± 0.18) 6.6 (± 0.14)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Download Speed in Mbps
14 (± 0.27)
14 (± 0.40)
25 (± 0.43)
25 (± 0.34)
3G Download Speed in Mbps
5 (± 0.16)
6 (± 0.24)
7 (± 0.18)
7 (± 0.14)
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Inc.

All of our users on all four of the national operators' networks saw increases of at least 1 Mbps in their Download Speed Experience. But in percentage terms, the second-tier players — Cell C and Telkom — both saw double-digit growth in their scores: 16% and 11% respectively. Looking at the longer term, it's MTN who has really worked to earn its shared prize in Download Speed Experience. In the 12 months since our report in September 2018, MTN's score has jumped over 21%, forcing a draw for our award and keeping the pressure on Vodacom.

Upload Speed Experience

While our users in South Africa are seeing healthy improvements in their download speeds, the same can't be said of the uplink side of their connections. Only one of the national operators saw any significant improvement in their Upload Speed Experience scores: the winner Vodacom, which saw its score increase just over 6%. The other three operators, Cell C, MTN and Telkom, statistically saw no movement in their scores since our last report.

Upload Speed Experience
in Mbps
Telkom
3.2
Cell C
3.5
MTN
4.9
Vodacom
5.8
0 1.875 3.75 5.625 7.5
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
Supporting Metrics
in Mbps
4G Upload Speed
4.2 (± 0.09) 5.1 (± 0.18) 6.9 (± 0.16) 7.8 (± 0.13)
3G Upload Speed
1.1 (± 0.04) 1.3 (± 0.06) 1.0 (± 0.05) 1.5 (± 0.04)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Upload Speed in Mbps
4 (± 0.09)
5 (± 0.18)
7 (± 0.16)
8 (± 0.13)
3G Upload Speed in Mbps
1 (± 0.04)
1 (± 0.06)
1 (± 0.05)
2 (± 0.04)
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Inc.

The picture in upload gets worse when we isolate the operator's 4G networks. None of South Africa's national operators managed to improve their 4G Upload Speed scores — in fact two of them, MTN and Telkom, saw declines of around 10% in our measurements. This is a relatively common phenomenon we have observed in maturing markets, as operators tend to focus their network and spectrum assets on improving download speeds, sometimes at the expense of upload. But upload experience is becoming increasingly important as mobile user habits shift from passive internet consumption to user-generated content.

Latency Experience

Some of the best improvements we saw in any of our metrics were in Latency Experience. Vodacom kept hold of our award, improving its score by some 5.7% over the past six months — but all the other three operators saw double-digit percentage growth in this metric. MTN came in second, putting pressure on the leader with an improvement of 15.2% — but even this jump wasn't the greatest we measured. Our users on Telkom's network saw their average Latency Experience score improve by 16.3% in the past six months, while Cell C's score was 14.7% better.

Latency Experience
in ms The lower the figure the better the latency
Telkom
45.5
Cell C
48.8
MTN
38.3
Vodacom
36.1
0 12.5 25 37.5 50
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Latency Experience
Supporting Metrics
in ms
4G Latency
36.2 (± 0.37) 40.5 (± 0.54) 29.1 (± 0.20) 31.2 (± 0.18)
3G Latency
63.9 (± 0.93) 60.6 (± 1.38) 56.1 (± 0.89) 46.9 (± 0.55)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Latency in ms
36 (± 0.37)
41 (± 0.54)
29 (± 0.20)
31 (± 0.18)
3G Latency in ms
64 (± 0.93)
61 (± 1.38)
56 (± 0.89)
47 (± 0.55)
Mobile Network Experience Report | August 2019 | © Opensignal Inc.

The gap in Latency Experience scores between South Africa's four national operators has shrunk to less than 13 milliseconds, down from nearly 19ms in our last report. We are still seeing evidence of the two tiers of mobile network experience among the operators in latency, but this rift seems to be narrowing.

Regional Analysis

MTN's lead in our national 4G Availability measurements was reflected in South Africa's biggest cities, where the operator won four out of five awards outright, pulling ahead of Vodacom in Johannesburg but being held to a draw by Telkom in Cape Town. MTN has now passed 90% 4G Availability in two cities — Durban and Ekurhuleni — and is just a few percentage points off this milestone in the other three. But as in our national results, it was Telkom who saw the greatest improvements in 4G Availability in the cities, including an impressive jump of over 10 percentage points in Tshwane.

In Download Speed Experience, the close race between the two leaders continued in the cities, with MTN winning two awards, Vodacom taking one and the remaining two metros seeing ties between the two. And these speeds are improving, with MTN and Vodacom now boasting Download Speed Experience scores over 20 Mbps in three cities each, while Vodacom won in Tshwane with an exceptional average speed of 26.6 Mbps.

In terms of Video Experience, we saw MTN win in two cities — Ekurhuleni and Tshwane — while it tied with Vodacom in the other three. But Vodacom is now able to claim it provides a Very Good Video Experience (a score of 65-75) in all five of the cities we analyzed, while MTN's score was just shy of this ranking in Cape Town.

Select any region below to display individual breakdown

Cape Town

4G Availability
in Cape Town
in %
Telkom
87.7
Cell C
84.3
MTN
89.8
Vodacom
84.6
Download Image
Video Experience
in Cape Town
in 0-100 points
Telkom
55.1
Cell C
55.4
MTN
64.4
Vodacom
66.3
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Cape Town
in Mbps
Telkom
12.4
Cell C
8.9
MTN
19.3
Vodacom
19.0
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Cape Town
in Mbps
Telkom
3.6
Cell C
3.1
MTN
4.1
Vodacom
5.5
Download Image
Latency Experience
in Cape Town
in ms
Telkom
43.2
Cell C
54.6
MTN
38.4
Vodacom
32.1
Download Image

Durban

4G Availability
in Durban
in %
Telkom
83.1
Cell C
79.8
MTN
90.1
Vodacom
81.0
Download Image
Video Experience
in Durban
in 0-100 points
Telkom
51.9
Cell C
55.1
MTN
67.8
Vodacom
65.8
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Durban
in Mbps
Telkom
11.8
Cell C
8.1
MTN
23.4
Vodacom
18.9
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Durban
in Mbps
Telkom
3.0
Cell C
2.9
MTN
6.5
Vodacom
5.7
Download Image
Latency Experience
in Durban
in ms
Telkom
48.6
Cell C
54.7
MTN
30.4
Vodacom
32.0
Download Image

Ekurhuleni

4G Availability
in Ekurhuleni
in %
Telkom
81.5
Cell C
77.7
MTN
90.4
Vodacom
83.5
Download Image
Video Experience
in Ekurhuleni
in 0-100 points
Telkom
52.7
Cell C
58.7
MTN
69.8
Vodacom
67.3
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Ekurhuleni
in Mbps
Telkom
11.7
Cell C
11.9
MTN
21.3
Vodacom
21.2
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Ekurhuleni
in Mbps
Telkom
3.0
Cell C
3.8
MTN
6.3
Vodacom
7.6
Download Image
Latency Experience
in Ekurhuleni
in ms
Telkom
37.4
Cell C
35.8
MTN
30.9
Vodacom
32.4
Download Image

Johannesburg

4G Availability
in Johannesburg
in %
Telkom
78.7
Cell C
78.3
MTN
87.6
Vodacom
85.3
Download Image
Video Experience
in Johannesburg
in 0-100 points
Telkom
51.6
Cell C
57.2
MTN
68.8
Vodacom
69.0
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Johannesburg
in Mbps
Telkom
10.2
Cell C
11.2
MTN
21.4
Vodacom
25.6
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Johannesburg
in Mbps
Telkom
3.0
Cell C
4.1
MTN
6.9
Vodacom
8.2
Download Image
Latency Experience
in Johannesburg
in ms
Telkom
39.7
Cell C
36.6
MTN
30.2
Vodacom
29.7
Download Image

Tshwane

4G Availability
in Tshwane
in %
Telkom
80.3
Cell C
77.0
MTN
88.6
Vodacom
84.6
Download Image
Video Experience
in Tshwane
in 0-100 points
Telkom
49.3
Cell C
57.9
MTN
68.6
Vodacom
66.6
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
in Tshwane
in Mbps
Telkom
11.9
Cell C
11.2
MTN
26.6
Vodacom
23.3
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
in Tshwane
in Mbps
Telkom
3.4
Cell C
4.0
MTN
7.1
Vodacom
7.1
Download Image
Latency Experience
in Tshwane
in ms
Telkom
37.9
Cell C
35.9
MTN
30.9
Vodacom
30.9
Download Image
Learn more

Opensignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks in the places they live, work and travel.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the true experience of smartphone users. Therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only.

For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars. In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

More about Methodology

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For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars.

In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

Why confidence intervals are vital in analyzing mobile network experience

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