The best and worst mobile networks in South Africa – according to customers

 ·20 Apr 2022

DataEQ and Deloitte have published the latest African Telecommunications Sentiment Index, revealing how South African consumers feel about the country’s major telcos.

The index is based on over 1.8 million consumer social media posts about South African mobile operators from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021. The group then analysed some 500,000 of these posts for sentiment and conversation themes. Data sources were mainly from Twitter and Facebook, but also included multiple other online sources.

The net index score is determined by subtracting negative sentiment from positive sentiment. While there was some improvement compared to 2021, overall the telco industry still recorded a considerably lower net sentiment score when compared to the banking, insurance, and food retail industries.

“Amid increasing data traffic, telcos have battled for additional broadband spectrum. Load shedding has also had a devastating impact on the industry, pushing operational costs up at a time when margins were already under immense pressure,” said Gill Hofmeyr, Africa TMT Industry Leader at Deloitte.

MTN ranks top 

MTN extended its lead by producing the largest year-on-year net sentiment improvement in this year’s ranking, while Rain’s uptick wasn’t enough to see a ranking shift.

The biggest improvement in both reputational and operational sentiment came from Telkom, which saw the partly state-owned telco climb the rankings to share second place with Vodacom.

Bucking the trend, Cell C was the only provider whose Net Sentiment worsened in 2021, which saw the telco slide down one spot in the ranking.

The biggest driver of complaints was affordability, particularly in relation to data. Despite their improvement in pricing sentiment, Vodacom saw a relatively high proportion of affordability complaints. In line with previous index findings, negative conversation about data pricing often coincided with network complaints, suggesting increased prices upped customer expectations


DataEQ managing director, Melanie Malherbe, notes that much of the progress relied on telcos’ reputational efforts.

“Notwithstanding some successful brand and influencer campaigns, customer experience remained a major shortcoming across the industry, with consumer sentiment for this aspect worsening year on year.

“Considering that telcos’ efforts in 2021 did not translate into an improved customer experience when compared to 2020, this remains a key potential area for differentiation going forward,” said Malherbe.

Read: Changes coming for mobile data costs and phone calls in South Africa: expert

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