South Africa's mobile networks continuously fight for supremacy, with each claiming to have better range and connection speeds.
This fight is especially important because customers expect good results from their provider since they are paying through the nose for inflated data rates. During lockdown this became even more important because people relied on their home networks for more hours of the day.
This increased pressure on mobile networks, which would have usually suffered under the 50% increase in traffic experienced as everyone stayed home. However, the temporary spectrum issued by ICASA helped mobile networks maintain average speeds despite the heavier burden.
MyBroadband Insights put each network to the test over lockdown to find out who reigned supreme, and who lagged behind.
Calculating network efficiency
Testing network capabilities is straightforward enough but just takes time and commitment because it's all about averages.
MyBroadband Speed Test App users conducted 278,890 speed tests across the country for the different networks between 1 April and 30 June 2020 to get the data needed to compare.
While they calculated average download speeds, upload speed and latency, these comparisons don't always give a direct answer as to which is overall the best network.
To account for this, MyBroadband created a "Network Quality Score" which was calculated using all three factors.
This score was out of 10 and showed how each network performed relative to the others.
If you were to guess which networks were in the top two, it is likely that most South Africans would say MTN or Vodacom as these are the biggest providers in the country.
Their network capabilities outstretch the other networks throughout the country overall, which is why those were the correct guesses.
However, what is interesting is that MTN took first place and Vodacom followed with a significantly lower score. This puts MTN in a much stronger position and means it might be a better option than its main competitor.
MyBroadband Insights noted that Rain, the worst scoring, was the only network to see a significant decline during lockdown from its previous speeds. This was because ICASA allocated less suitable frequencies to the network for their current radios.
Rain began the process of getting new radios but this had not been completed during these speed tests.