South Africa has emerged as the frontrunner in providing the fastest download speed and the most consistent quality of mobile services in Africa, according to recent data released by Opensignal. The analysis covered smartphone users across 15 markets in the continent, highlighting the state of mobile connectivity in the region.
The report revealed that South African users enjoy the highest Download Speed Experience, boasting an impressive score of 27.3Mbps. This is 16.8 percent faster than the second-placed country, Morocco, which recorded a download speed of 23.4Mbps. Egypt and Kenya tied for third place with scores of 16.2-16.3Mbps, showcasing the significant progress made in mobile internet speeds across various African nations.
While South Africa excelled in download speeds, Morocco took the lead in Upload Speed Experience, scoring an impressive 7.5Mbps. Algeria followed closely with a score of 6.2Mbps, while South Africa and Kenya tied in third place with scores of 5.7-5.8Mbps. These findings indicate that both countries have invested significantly in enhancing their network infrastructures to provide better upload speeds for users.
Interestingly, the study highlighted the growing adoption of 4G and 5G services in South Africa, with users connecting to these advanced networks for the highest proportion of time. This reflects the country’s commitment to advancing mobile technology and providing its citizens with a seamless mobile experience.
On the other hand, Morocco took the lead in other areas such as Games Experience and Voice App Experience, showcasing its commitment to offering a diverse and high-quality mobile experience for users.
A GSMA report said mobile operators in Sub-Saharan Africa will invest $60 billion in their networks – almost a fifth will be on 5G by 2025.
Meanwhile, several African markets, including Ghana, faced challenges due to a lack of fixed infrastructure, resulting in more than 40 percent of smartphone users relying solely on mobile internet services rather than Wi-Fi connections. Ghana, in particular, stood out with nearly 60 percent of mobile-only internet users, highlighting the mobile-first nature of the country’s internet usage.
3G technology remains prevalent in certain African markets. Angola and Ethiopia, for example, recorded smartphone users spending over 40 percent of their time on 3G networks. This emphasizes the need for more investment in modernizing mobile infrastructures to provide faster and more reliable connections for phone users.
South Africa emerged as the leader in providing the most consistent mobile network experience, with a score of 50.9 percent. This means that a higher percentage of tests conducted on South African networks met the requirements for demanding applications such as video calling, social media uploads, and smart home applications, compared to other countries. Egypt and Morocco secured the second and third positions with scores of 46 percent and 45.3 percent, respectively.
In contrast, Ghana, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, and Cameroon scored lower than 10 percent in this category, indicating room for improvement in meeting the requirements of demanding applications in those markets. The low scores were largely attributed to the extensive use of older 3G technology in these countries.
There is significant variations in mobile video, gaming, and voice app experiences across African markets. South Africa and Egypt emerged as the joint highest scorers for Video Experience, while Morocco stood out as the leader in both Games Experience and Voice App Experience.
When it comes to Video Experience, South Africa and Egypt share the top spot, each scoring between 54.5 and 54.9 points out of 100. This rating puts them in the Fair category (48-58), indicating that smartphone users in these countries can stream videos at 720p resolution or better, with satisfactory loading times and minimal stalling. Similarly, Morocco and Kenya also secured Fair ratings, showing that users in these markets can enjoy a reasonably good video streaming experience. However, the remaining African markets fell into the Poor category (below 48), highlighting the need for improvements in video streaming services in those regions.
In the realm of mobile gaming, Morocco outshined other markets with an impressive Games Experience score of 56.7 out of 100. This substantial lead places Morocco in the Poor category (40-65), where users may still experience some lack of controllability. Egypt and Algeria followed in second and third place, respectively, but with a considerable gap of 10 and 16 points from Morocco. Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire topped the Sub-Saharan African markets, yet they only achieved a Very Poor rating (below 40), indicating that most users in these countries experience noticeable delays within games and struggle with gameplay control.
Morocco’s success extended to the Voice App Experience category, where it secured the top position with an impressive score of 74.5 out of 100. This makes it the only market with an Acceptable rating (74-80), signifying that users are generally satisfied, and listeners can comprehend without the need for repetition. Egypt closely trailed Morocco, securing the runner-up spot with a score only 1.6 points behind the leader. South Africa claimed the third position in Africa with a score of 69 points. These two countries, along with Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, and Nigeria, earned Poor ratings (66-74), indicating the need for improvements in voice app services. Kenya and Tanzania, on the other hand, fell into the Very Poor category (60-66), while the remaining markets had an even lower rating of Unintelligible (45-60).
Despite progress in mobile connectivity across Africa, certain markets continue to face challenges due to their reliance on older network generations such as 3G and 2G, impacting mobile speeds and experiential scores, according to data from Opensignal.
A significant proportion of smartphone users in Ethiopia and Angola still spend more than 40 percent of their time connected to 3G services, leading to lower mobile experience scores in these countries. Similarly, users in Uganda, Ghana, and Sudan spend over 30 percent of their time on 3G, which affects their overall mobile network experience. In some markets, 2G usage is also notable, with users in Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania spending more than 5 percent of their time on 2G. This limited spectrum bandwidth, coupled with heavy use of older network technologies, adversely affects the quality of mobile services in these regions.
The extent of 3G usage is attributed to various factors, including the cost of mobile infrastructure, limited energy resources, and the prevalence of older mobile devices not compatible with newer network generations. To address these challenges, deploying solar-powered cells in remote areas and promoting the production of low-cost, affordable smartphones can potentially boost mobile connectivity and improve internet access for work, education, and entertainment.
South Africa stands out as a leader in 4G connectivity, with smartphone users spending an impressive 85.6 percent of their time connected to 4G or better services. This is a significant advantage over Ethiopia, where users connect to 4G for less than half of their time. Ethiopia’s recent liberalization of the mobile market and the emergence of new players, like Safaricom in 2022, suggest that further investment and development may improve connectivity in the future.
In terms of Wi-Fi usage, smartphone users in Sudan, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo connect sporadically to Wi-Fi services, spending only a small percentage of their time on Wi-Fi. In contrast, South African users spend the most time on Wi-Fi, followed by Egypt. A substantial share of mobile-only Internet users in eight out of the 15 analyzed markets never connect to Wi-Fi, relying solely on mobile connectivity for data transfers.
Although several African markets, including South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, have deployed 5G networks, the presence of 5G connectivity on the continent is still relatively limited. South Africa stands out with a more substantial number of 5G subscriptions, while others observe only several thousand 5G users. The further development of seamless and reliable mobile connectivity, especially for the high number of mobile-only users in Africa, is crucial for the markets’ economic growth.
As mobile technology continues to advance, it is expected that African markets will increasingly invest in modern network infrastructure and embrace new connectivity solutions to improve overall mobile experiences for their users.