A visitor walks past a 5G sign during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS
A visitor walks past a 5G sign during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Picture: REUTERS

Data-only network operator Rain will improve its distribution platform in a bid to sign up more customers after the launch of its superfast 5G wireless network in September.

Rain, partly owned by Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan, is taking on established companies Vox, Vumatel and Telkom’s OpenServe in the lucrative fixed-line internet market.

Customers can only access Rain’s SIM cards via its online platform. The cards are then couriered to them. The SIM card is registered on the network upon delivery.

CEO William Roos said establishing physical locations like other mobile operators have done was too complex and not something to spend Rain’s estimated R2bn capital expenditure budget on. For now “online distribution should suffice”, he said.

Rain will soon launch a revamped platform that will allow its customers to order and register new SIM cards online.

It has recently launched its commercial 5G service which is primarily a fixed internet product where a Wi-Fi router or modem connects to the internet using a SIM card to access its  network. Rain believes its service will help SA benefit from lower data costs and the fourth industrial revolution

Roos said Rain’s offering is a viable alternative to fibre to the home.

Since February, its network has reached about 500,000 homes in SA, which could potentially be its clients, he said. The fibre network is said to pass by about 1.5-million homes.

Rain is only available in Johannesburg and Cape Town. It employs about 200 people, boasts 100,000 subscribers on its network, making it far smaller than the incumbents MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, who have 95-million SIM cards on their networks.  

With the efficiency of 5G, Roos said Rain can offer data prices that can compete with existing fibre offerings. He said 5G was a good option for providing uncapped data to the home for areas where there is no fibre.

Rain makes the majority of its revenue from its roaming agreements with companies like Vodacom who are renting its network, said Roos.

The company had no plans for expanding beyond SA’s borders in the next five years and would focus on building out its 5G network locally, he said.

gavazam@businesslive.co.za