Rain 5G, Rain 4G / LTE; Unlimited Data Network in South Africa

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.

Rain 5G

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 licensed 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.

Rain 5G Prices & Devices

The 5G service is available on a 2-year contract at R1,000 per month and comes with a Huawei 5G router.

As of 25 Feb 2020, Rain now offers two different plans to cater to different segments of the South African home broadband market, as listed below.

StandardPremium
Speeds up to 30 MbpsAverage speeds over 200 Mbps
Standard quality video streamingHigh-quality video streaming
Easy upgrade to 5G PremiumMultiple HD streams
R699 per monthR999 per month

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.

Based on an inquiry I made with Rain, the Huawei 5G CPE Pro unit cannot be swapped for the CPE X unit. So if you joined “too early” as I did, you’re stuck with the router that cannot be installed outdoors or you can buy and connect an external antenna to it.

Rain 4G / LTE

This was Rain’s initial service offering and is available across major cities and towns across South Africa.

Unlimited Data

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.

4G Sign-up

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 messages.

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 supports those bands would work on the rain network.

Review

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 location. It can be very fast in some and just average elsewhere. For example, there is no coverage within the terminals of OR Tambo International Airport and coverage on national highways is patchy at best. It is usable within Johannesburg.

Are you a Rain subscriber? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

4 Comments

  1. I use their 4G – 19 hour Unlimited package. On rainy or cloudy days, the service has been very poor but it seems to have improved over the last 2 weeks where days have been cloudy but service was still available. When it rains, forget about RAIN. It doesn’t work and they NEVER respond to email queries.

  2. The connection is very bad!! Not sure if I still want to continue using them. Would rather find something faster and able to take the load. Have been struggling with connectivity for days yet I have to pay and then to top it off you can never get assistance when calling its just pathetic.

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