Gaming on a mobile network in SA is still mostly awful

  • OpenSignal’s Network Experience Report for South Africa highlights just how middling our mobile networks are.
  • While Vodacom is crowned the most consistent network, the differences between it, MTN, Telkom, and Cell C are minimal.
  • Gaming on a mobile network is a frustrating experience even on MTN which was crowned the winner in that category.

Independent consumer mobile experience analysts OpenSignal have published their Mobile Network Experience Report for South Africa based on data collected between November 2023 and January 2024.

The key findings from the report found that Vodacom is the most consistent mobile network in South Africa achieving the minimum threshold in 62.7 percent of OpenSignal’s tests. MTN follows closely behind Vodacom thanks to improvements to its network, but when looking at the numbers, it’s hard not to feel like this ranking obscures the actual experience.

First we need to dig into OpenSignal’s metrics. The firm uses a scale of 0 – 100 to rank various aspects of a mobile network. This includes:

  • Live Video Experience,
  • Games Experience,
  • Voice App Experience,
  • Group Video Calling Experience,
  • Download Speed Experience,
  • Upload Speed Experience,
  • Availability,
  • Reach,
  • Coverage Experience,
  • Consistent Quality.

Each network is assigned a score for each metric with the 40 – 50 range being a middling and sometimes serviceable experience. Lower than that and we start to approach the unusable area. You can find more details on scoring here.

In the areas of Video, Live Video, and Games, not a single mobile network scored above a 60 putting them Good, Fair and Poor range depending on the mobile network and metric.

As an example we’ve included the scores for the gaming experience below and while MTN wins out, all of the mobile networks score within the same, low, range.

Source: OpenSignal.

This middling experience extends to 5G as well where MTN and Vodacom scored 41.4 and 38.8 respectively.

The same can be said for the video experience where all networks are even Stevens in performance as OpenSignal’s senior analyst Hardik Khatri notes.

“There is no statistically significant difference in the on-demand Video Experience scores across all four networks. As a result, Cell C, MTN, Telekoma [sic] and Vodacom share the podium for Video Experience. With scores statistically tied in the 53.6-56.9 points range, the overall quality of streaming on-demand video online in South Africa rates as Fair (48-58) across the board. A Fair (48-58) rating means that our users are, on average, able to stream video at 720p or better with satisfactory loading times and substantial stalling,” the analyst notes.

Why are things so, mid?

That appears to be how many South Africans connect to the internet. OpenSignal notes that enough South Africans are still using 2G and 3G connectivity that releasing that signal for other tech such as 5G is tough. Convincing folks to upgrade their smartphone to one that supports 4G and 5G is a hard ask as most South Africans can’t afford food let alone a new smartphone.

The fact remains though that using a mobile network is still fraught with frustration and if you think your mobile network is slow, it probably is.

[Image – Pandhuya Niking on Unsplash]


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