Cape Town - Two of South Africa’s three major cell networks failed to meet certain quality standards, said an Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) report released this week.

The quality-of-service report measured call set-up and dropped call rates for Vodacom, MTN and Cell C across the Western Cape.

“Icasa publishes these reports for purposes of identifying shortcomings in the services offered by the three major mobile operators, and thereby promote redress in the public interest,” Icasa spokesman Paseka Maleka told the Cape Times.

On average, MTN failed to meet standards for accessibility, measured by call set-up rates.

Eben Albertyn, chief technical officer at MTN, said the grade was a result of a malfunctioning test system.

“MTN informed Icasa of this before the results were published and has since rectified the performance of this server,” Albertyn said.

Cell C failed to meet standards of retainability, measured by dropped call rates.

Cell C executive head of communications Karin Fourie said the results still needed to be analysed.

“Cell C continues to make intensive investment in its network with a planned R2.3-billion for capex (capital expenditure) spend in 2014.

“The company has 318 additional sites planned for 2014,” Fourie said.

Operators said the results should be considered carefully. “In the absence of an industry- recognised testing methodology, it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of the results.”

Fourie also said that Icasa was “finalising an industry-developed quality-of-service monitoring methodology with Icasa, the SA Bureau of Standards and interested parties”.

The report notes that “drive test results do not represent the mobile service provider’s overall network performance”.

“We appreciate the feedback from things like the drive testing reports, but it definitely does help to keep in mind that these are limited tests in specific areas and not indicative of overall network performance,” Vodacom Western Cape managing executive Steven Barnwell said.

Researchers went out on four routes around the CBD, Cape Town International Airport, Somerset West/Stellenbosch and Worcester.

They used equipment which would mimic users making calls in those areas.

Some of the areas had more problems than others. All three networks failed dropped call standards on the Somerset West/Stellenbosch route.

“The report is based on widely used routes and areas in which we have received complaints from the public.

“How can these areas not reflect areas where the public is using mobile services?” Maleka said.

Icasa released a first version of the report on May 21, which included corrupted data for dropped call rates, and said all three networks had failed.

The corrected report contains new data and was released on Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t express a degree of frustration that it turns out that this was based on a flawed report,” Barnwell said. - Cape Times

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