In September, Rain became the only mobile network in South Africa to bring 5G to the country with an initial roll-out to Johannesburg and Pretoria. CEO Willem Roos told Biznews in an interview,“You get speeds up to 700 megabits a second for R1000 a month”. Roos also said that once 5G was in your area, the speed would be faster than the vast majority of fibre connections that were currently available. But customers are not happy with Rain’s performance as an Internet Service Provider and the company has been slipping down the rankings. My Broadband has looked at why this happening and says “it should not come as a surprise.” But for customers who are angry about poor network speeds in peak times; 5G could be the saviour. – Linda van Tilburg
Rain users are angry – Here is why
Rain has been sliding down the South African ISP rankings and is now rated as one of the worst Internet service providers in the country.
This decline is significant if you consider that Rain is a consumer champion which brought affordable uncapped mobile data products to consumers.
This raises the question of why Rain subscribers, and in particular its fixed-LTE users, are rating the company so poorly in MyBroadband’s consumer satisfaction polls.
The reason is simple – poor network quality. The company’s network performance has been declining since it launched its fixed-LTE service in June 2017.
Whenever an article about Rain is published, complaints about poor network speeds, especially during peak hours, follow.
Rain’s network performance decline
The steady decline in Rain’s network performance should not come as a surprise – the company was warned about it long before it happened.
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub warned Rain in August 2018 that it will face network capacity constraints in the future, which can cost a lot of money to fix.
Joosub said the looming network congestion means that Rain will face the same challenges as Vodacom, especially in a spectrum-starved environment.
“It is easy when you have an empty network, but when you offer aggressive deals it quickly fills up,” he said.
When network congestion sets in, you have to improve your network to keep pace with the continued usage growth.
Without additional spectrum, network operators like Rain will have to spend a lot of money on new sites.
In July 2018, Rain announced that it would suspend the sale of its fixed-LTE products due to capacity constraints on its network.
Rain said at the time that the popularity of its mobile products and its strong fixed-LTE sales put strain on its network.
Rain CEO Willem Roos said the decision to suspend fixed-wireless sales was “to ensure a continued great experience for all their customers”.
While this intervention was clearly necessary, it did not stem the decline in Rain’s network performance.
Over the next eighteen months, Rain’s performance continued to decline, and many subscribers still complain about the company’s poor network performance in certain areas.
Network performance and customer satisfaction
Rain’s declining network performance is closely linked with lower customer satisfaction ratings.
The table below shows the average download speed and average customer satisfaction ratings in 2019.
It should be noted that while an average decline of 4Mbps may not sound significant, it represents a much bigger impact on users whose connections are adversely affected.
As many Rain sites are not impacted by slower speeds, it means that the ones that are impacted had to decline by far more than 4Mbps to result in such a significant average decline.
Rain 5G to the rescue
Rain’s LTE network is clearly under pressure, but the good news for subscribers is that the company’s new 5G network may come to the rescue.
Initial tests on Rain 5G show that the service is blisteringly fast, and the company is confident it can maintain good service levels on this network.
Rain told MyBroadband that the key to the success – and sustainability – of its 5G service will be the “massive increase in capacity” 5G offers over 4G.
In the case of 5G, this is 50- to 100-times more capacity per site than 4G. “The 5G network is architected to accommodate dramatically more users than 4G,” Rain said.
Rain added that it provides a high-quality 5G router, customised for the Rain 5G network, which makes efficient use of network resources.