Mobile Network Experience Report South Africa February 2022

South Africa

Mobile Network Experience Report
February 2022

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
Robert Wyrzykowski Senior Analyst

Key Findings

Our South African uses saw the fastest average download speeds on MTN’s network

MTN wins the Download Speed Experience award, with a score of 27.6 Mbps — 4.7 Mbps (20.7%) ahead of second-placed Vodacom. Our users on Vodacom’s network saw average download speeds (22.9 Mbps) at least twice as fast as those on Cell C and Telkom’s networks, which lagged behind the leading operators with scores around 11.5 Mbps.

MTN wins the Upload Speed Experience award outright

On top of solely claiming the Download Speed Experience award, MTN wins Upload Speed Experience outright with a score of 7.9 Mbps. Vodacom also places second in this category — 1.9 Mbps behind the winning operator. Similar to Download Speed Experience, Cell C and Telkom place joint third, with statistically tied scores of 3.7 and 3.5 Mbps.

Vodacom scores the experiential hat-trick

Vodacom wins all three experiential awards outright — Video Experience, Games Experience and Voice App Experience. Our users on this network enjoyed Very Good (65<75) Video Experience, which means generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling.

Our Vodacom users connected to its 4G network in seven out of 10 locations

Vodacom completes its award haul with an outright win in 4G Coverage Experience, scoring 7.1 points on a 10-point scale — 0.9 points ahead of second-placed MTN. Opensignal’s 4G Coverage Experience analyzes the locations where customers of a network operator received a 4G signal relative to the locations visited by users of all network operators.

Telkom triumphs in 4G Availability with a score of nearly 90%

While Vodacom wins 4G Coverage Experience outright, it is Telkom that claims the other award for 4G extent in South Africa — 4G Availability — with a score of 89.5%. This means our users on Telkom’s network were able to connect to 4G services almost 90% of the time. Telkom comes first ahead of Vodacom (87.6%), MTN (85.1%) and Cell C (79.1%).

Introduction

In this report on Mobile Network Experience in South Africa, we saw seven outright wins secured by three different operators. Vodacom collects the most awards — the three experiential trophies (Video Experience, Games Experience, Voice App Experience), along with the 4G Coverage Experience award. MTN firmly snatched the speed awards — Download Speed Experience and Upload Speed Experience — placing comfortably ahead of Vodacom in both. Meanwhile, Telkom claims its only award for 4G Availability — with a score of nearly 90%.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) intends to run a long-delayed 4G and 5G spectrum auction in March 2022. The tender will offer 2x20 MHz in the 700 MHz band, 2x30 MHz in the 800 MHz band, 140 MHz in the 2600 MHz band and 86 MHz in the 3500 MHz band to the potential bidders. All four national operators placed their applications to participate in the auction. However, Telkom filed a court action at the same time, to challenge the auction process. According to the operator, it may affect Telkom’s ability to compete, due to uniform spectrum caps and digital dividend bands still being occupied. The High Court showdown is scheduled for April 2022, but ICASA is keen on proceeding with the auction in March as planned.

South Africa is one of the few countries left in Africa that hasn’t assigned 4G spectrum in 800 and 2600 MHz bands yet and local operators had to resort to re-farming of their existing 2G/3G legacy holdings to deploy 4G services. However, the government temporarily granted operators access to the emergency spectrum in 700, 800, 2600, 2300 and 3500 MHz bands in April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic — and MTN used its concession to deploy 5G services. Operators had to return their temporary spectrum allocations by the end of November 2021, ahead of the upcoming auction.

In November 2021, tower company IHS Towers signed a sale and leaseback agreement with MTN, which covers 5,709 towers across South Africa owned by the operator, for ZAR 6.4 billion ($417.3 million). The contract will include the provision of Power-as-a-Service to MTN at approximately 12,800 sites across the country. Meanwhile, MTN partnered with Nokia to drive its network modernization, particularly to upgrade its voice services and lay the foundation for Voice over 5G – first in South Africa, then in other African countries where MTN has its presence. The operator also signed a new roaming agreement with Telkom, which will give Telkom’s subscribers access to MTN’s 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Telkom already had an agreement with Vodacom in place, inked in December 2018.

Our results in this report are based on measurements collected across all major mobile operators in South Africa — Cell C, MTN, Telkom and Vodacom — over the period of 90 days between November 1, 2021 and January 29, 2022. 5G measurements contributed to the overall scores.

Opensignal Awards Table

Mobile Experience Awards, South Africa
February 2022, South Africa Report
Video Experience
Games Experience
Voice App Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
4G Availability
4G Coverage Experience
Download Image
Mobile Experience Awards Winners
February 2022, South Africa
Video Experience
Games Experience
Voice App Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
4G Availability
4G Coverage Experience
Download Image

Overview

Click on metric labels below for a quick preview
Video Experience
in 0-100 points
Cell C
52.7
MTN
61.9
Telkom
56.9
Vodacom
66.7
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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National Analysis

Video Experience

Vodacom wins the Video Experience award outright, with a score of 66.7 points. As a result, the operator placed in the Very Good (65<75) category, which means generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling but the experience might have been somewhat inconsistent across users and/or video providers/resolutions. MTN comes second, while Telkom ties for third place with Cell C.

Video Experience
in 0-100 points
Cell C
52.7
MTN
61.9
Telkom
56.9
Vodacom
66.7
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Video Experience
Additional Metrics
in 0-100 points
4G Video Experience
59.8 (± 3.52) 68.2 (± 1.39) 62.4 (± 2.31) 70.3 (± 1.02)
3G Video Experience
37.4 (± 7.37) 41.3 (± 4.31) 34.3 (± 6.08) 45.0 (± 4.12)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Video Experience in 0-100 points
60 (± 3.52)
68 (± 1.39)
62 (± 2.31)
70 (± 1.02)
3G Video Experience in 0-100 points
37 (± 7.37)
41 (± 4.31)
34 (± 6.08)
45 (± 4.12)
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Inc.

Opensignal’s Video Experience metric quantifies the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator's networks. To calculate video experience, we are directly measuring video streams from end-user devices and using an ITU-based approach to quantify the overall video experience for each operator on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions and are streamed directly from the world’s largest video content providers.

Games Experience

Vodacom is the sole winner of the Games Experience award, with a score of 35.7 points — 1.1 points ahead of MTN and Telkom, who place second with identical scores of 34.6 points. Only 2.6 points on a 100-point scale separated South Africa’s all four operators — but there’s still room for improvement, as all of them placed in the lowest category— Very Poor (under 40).

Games Experience
in 0-100 points
Cell C
33.1
MTN
34.6
Telkom
34.6
Vodacom
35.7
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Games Experience
Additional Metrics
in 0-100 points
4G Games Experience
34.6 (± 0.34) 36.3 (± 0.29) 35.9 (± 0.34) 36.5 (± 0.22)
3G Games Experience
30.0 (± 0.71) 29.9 (± 0.59) 29.5 (± 0.79) 31.9 (± 0.39)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Games Experience in 0-100 points
35 (± 0.34)
36 (± 0.29)
36 (± 0.34)
37 (± 0.22)
3G Games Experience in 0-100 points
30 (± 0.71)
30 (± 0.59)
30 (± 0.79)
32 (± 0.39)
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Inc.

Opensignal’s Games Experience metric is a measure of how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator’s network. Measured on a scale of 0-100, it analyzes how the multiplayer mobile gaming experience is affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter.

Voice App Experience

With the Voice App Experience award, Vodacom completes the trifecta of outright wins in the experiential categories. The operator triumphs with a score of 71.1 points. MTN and Telkom are in a statistical tie for second place, with scores of 68.5 and 69.6 points respectively.

Voice App Experience
in 0-100 points
Cell C
65.7
MTN
68.5
Telkom
69.6
Vodacom
71.1
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Voice App Experience
Additional Metrics
in 0-100 points
4G Voice App Experience
68.9 (± 1.11) 71.6 (± 0.71) 72.8 (± 0.90) 72.7 (± 0.45)
3G Voice App Experience
58.7 (± 2.48) 58.5 (± 1.91) 56.3 (± 2.73) 61.7 (± 1.40)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Voice App Experience in 0-100 points
69 (± 1.11)
72 (± 0.71)
73 (± 0.90)
73 (± 0.45)
3G Voice App Experience in 0-100 points
59 (± 2.48)
58 (± 1.91)
56 (± 2.73)
62 (± 1.40)
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Inc.

Opensignal's Voice App Experience measures the quality of experience for over-the-top (OTT) voice services — mobile voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger etc. — using a model derived from an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) approach for quantifying overall voice call quality and a series of calibrated technical parameters. This model characterizes the exact relationship between the technical measurements and perceived call quality. Voice App Experience for each operator is calculated on a scale from 0 to 100.

Download Speed Experience

Our South African users saw the fastest average download speeds on MTN’s network, which wins the Download Speed Experience award outright. MTN’s score of 27.6 Mbps was 4.7 Mbps (20.7%) faster than what our users on second-placed Vodacom experienced. It was also 2.4 times faster than the average speeds seen by users on Cell C and Telkom’s networks, which are in a statistical tie for third place, with scores of 11.4 and 11.6 Mbps respectively.

Download Speed Experience
in Mbps
Cell C
11.4
MTN
27.6
Telkom
11.6
Vodacom
22.9
0 7.5 15 22.5 30
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Download Speed Experience
Additional Metrics
in Mbps
4G Download Speed
13.9 (± 0.72) 33.4 (± 0.94) 13.4 (± 0.40) 25.0 (± 0.56)
3G Download Speed
5.9 (± 0.45) 4.9 (± 0.28) 4.2 (± 0.28) 4.8 (± 0.20)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Download Speed in Mbps
14 (± 0.72)
33 (± 0.94)
13 (± 0.40)
25 (± 0.56)
3G Download Speed in Mbps
6 (± 0.45)
5 (± 0.28)
4 (± 0.28)
5 (± 0.20)
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Inc.

The highest average 4G speeds were seen by our MTN users with a score of 33.4 Mbps — more than a third faster than those seen by their peers on Vodacom with its score of 25 Mbps. Interestingly, our users observed their fastest 3G speeds on Cell C’s network — 5.9 Mbps, about 1 Mbps ahead of statistically tied MTN and Vodacom.

Upload Speed Experience

MTN claims both speed awards solely as it wins Upload Speed Experience outright as well, clocking in at 7.9 Mbps — 1.9 Mbps (30.8%) ahead of the runner up Vodacom. MTN’s average upload speeds were 2.1-2.2 times faster than what our users on Cell C and Telkom’s networks experienced.

Upload Speed Experience
in Mbps
Cell C
3.7
MTN
7.9
Telkom
3.5
Vodacom
6.0
0 2.5 5 7.5 10
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image
Upload Speed Experience
Additional Metrics
in Mbps
4G Upload Speed
4.7 (± 0.29) 9.6 (± 0.32) 4.1 (± 0.14) 6.6 (± 0.17)
3G Upload Speed
1.6 (± 0.14) 1.3 (± 0.10) 1.0 (± 0.09) 1.5 (± 0.08)
+/- numeric values represent confidence intervals.
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Limited
4G Upload Speed in Mbps
5 (± 0.29)
10 (± 0.32)
4 (± 0.14)
7 (± 0.17)
3G Upload Speed in Mbps
2 (± 0.14)
1 (± 0.10)
1 (± 0.09)
2 (± 0.08)
Mobile Network Experience Report | February 2022 | © Opensignal Inc.

MTN is very close to hitting the 10 Mbps mark in average 4G upload speeds. With a score of 9.6 Mbps, it commanded a lead of 3.1 Mbps over second-placed Vodacom. The highest average 3G upload speeds were seen by our users on Cell C and Vodacom’s networks, given their statistically tied scores of 1.5-1.6 Mbps.

4G Availability

Telkom snatches its only outright victory in 4G Availability. The operator wins with a score of 89.5% — 1.9 percentage points ahead of Vodacom and 4.4 percentage points ahead of MTN. This means our users on Telkom, Vodacom and MTN’s networks were connected to 4G services over 85% of the time. Cell C lagged with a score of 79.1%, the only operator in South Africa failing to hit the 80% mark this time.

4G Availability
% of time
Cell C
79.1
MTN
85.1
Telkom
89.5
Vodacom
87.6
0 22.5 45 67.5 90
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Opensignal’s 4G Availability metric shows the average proportion of time that our users spend with a 4G or better connection on each operator's network.

4G Coverage Experience

Vodacom wins its fourth award outright by claiming 4G Coverage Experience. The operator scored 7.1 points on a 10-point scale — this means our users on Vodacom’s network connected to 4G network in seven out of 10 locations. MTN comes second, with a score of 6.2 points — 1.5 points ahead of third-placed Telkom and 1.8 points ahead of fourth-placed Cell C.

4G Coverage Experience
in 0-10 points
Cell C
4.4
MTN
6.2
Telkom
4.7
Vodacom
7.1
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
Download Image

Opensignal’s 4G Coverage Experience measures how mobile subscribers experience 4G coverage on an operator’s network. Measured on a scale of 0-10, it analyzes the locations where customers of a network operator received a 4G signal relative to the locations visited by users of all network operators.

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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