JOHANNESBURG - Data provider rain entered South Africa's mobile market for the first time on Friday by launching a 4G mobile network, pitting it against the country's three other players in voice calls.

Rain, in which African Rainbow Capital Investments holds a 20.3% interest, has until now primarily focused on the home internet market.

The operator launched what it says was South Africa's first 4G data only network in 2018 and the country's first commercial 5G network in 2019.

But after acquiring spectrum in the 2022 auction, rain's 4G network has a more comprehensive reach, it said in a statement.

"This has now positioned rain to enter the market as a full mobile network operator, thus becoming the fourth telco after Vodacom, MTN and Telkom, with a network that offers national coverage in voice, SMS and data," rain added.

Earlier this year, rain and No.3 mobile network provider Telkom terminated discussions about a potential acquisition of rain after the parties decided that a suitable transaction was not possible at that time.

Now rain has decided to expand on its own.

Brandon Leigh, CEO of rain, said the expansion of rain's network indicated that "we are serious about being a major player in the mobile market as well."

(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla. Editing by Jane Merriman)