Rain launched its data-only network in 2018 and has since been embraced by heavy data users in South Africa.
The company behind the Rain network evolved from WBS (the same company that owned and ran the ancient iBurst network in the past) into the data network we have today. Due to some historical circumstances, the company has access to very good radio frequencies that are ideal for operating a 4G/LTE network.
Launched in September 2019, Rain’s 5G is the first openly available commercial 5G network in Africa. It started building the 5G network in October 2018.
Branded as “5G at Home”, the fixed service is currently limited to some suburbs of Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria) in the Gauteng province with plans to extend it into Cape Town, Durban and other major metropolitan areas of South Africa in 2020.
rain uses its licenced spectrum in the 3600 MHz bands to deploy the 5G part of the network. This frequency band, together with the NSA architecture, allows rain to construct only a relatively limited number of new sites, and yet still provide significant coverage.
While the network promises download speeds up to 700 Mbps, I have experienced ~ 300 Mbps in Randburg and Rivonia. Network performance is obviously dependent on various factors.
The service cannot be activated unless a minimum download speed of 80 Mbps is reached.
5G Pricing & Devices
The 5G service is available on a 2-year contract at R1,000 per month and comes with a Huawei 5G router.
Considering Rain’s 5G is not a mobile service, it currently only works with their fixed 5G routers. Huawei 5G CPE X (indoor/outdoor) and Huawei 5G CPE Pro (indoor only) are two routers that Rain supports. The devices offered are reportedly network-locked.
This was Rain’s initial service offering and is available across major cities and towns across South Africa.
One of Rain’s current service offering under LTE is an unlimited data model during the off-peak period with its peak period being between 6 pm and 11 pm. Users are able to cap how much data they wish to use per month, during the peak period. The service is available at R250 per month.
Rain also offers a 2nd pricing model at R50 per Gig of data for those who choose not to opt for the unlimited model.
One can signup for the service through Rain’s website provided you fall within their coverage area. You would need to have your ID or Passport handy when the courier delivers the SIM pack.
Another option is to buy the SIM pack from Takealot.com for R1. When you go this route, you must have a South African ID Book or Smart ID. You would need to complete the RICA process by yourself through the internet.
After the SIM has been successfully registered, it would be active within an hour.
You cannot make/receive calls using the Rain SIM. While you can receive activation text messages from Rain directly, you cannot send.
Discontinued Fixed LTE
It also initially offered a fixed-LTE service via independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Afrihost and WebAfrica but cancelled this due to capacity constraints after its network was overwhelmed with traffic.
Compatible LTE Devices
Rain is operated on the B3 1800 MHz and B38 2600 MHz bands/frequencies. Thus, any smartphone, tablet, MiFi device or LTE router that support those bands would work on the rain network.
I have used both of their 4G and 5G services for months now and can form an opinion.
Rain’s 5G network offers a good value for money if you need a fibre alternative and live in an area without fibre coverage. It may not be the best choice for a business considering load-shedding affects their uptime. This is a fixed service and not offered for smartphones as of February 2020.
Their 4G mobile service offers excellent value for money at R250 per month – most of the time. The quality of the network varies by your location. It can be very fast in some and just average elsewhere. Example, there is no coverage within the terminals of OR Tambo International Airport and coverage on national highways are patchy at best. It is usable within Johannesburg.
Are you a Rain subscriber? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.