OpenSignal Blog

Entel wins big in OpenSignal’s first Peru report

Entel may be tiny compared to Peruvian mobile powers Movistar and Claro, but it has  gotten the jump on its larger competitors when it comes to 4G, according to OpenSignal’s new State of Mobile Networks report for Peru. For this report we focused solely on Peru’s relatively new LTE infrastructure, drawing on 5.7 million speed and signal tests conducted in the first quarter. We found that Entel came out on top in all three of our test categories – often by a large margin.

Entel 4G customers were able to access LTE download speeds averaging 19 Mbps. They also had the most responsive connections in Peru as we measured Entel’s average 4G latency at 31 milliseconds (low latency means webpages start loading more quickly and real-time communications apps perform better). The most impressive award Entel won, however, was in 4G availability.

Our availability metric tracks the proportion of time subscribers have access to particular network. In Entel’s case, 4G customers were able to see an LTE signal 82% of the time, an exceptional figure not just for Peru but for all of the Americas. To put that in perspective, only 33 of the 182 operators we tracked in our last global State of LTE report were able to supply a 4G connection more than 80% of the time. Peru obviously is still in a state of 4G flux as operators complete their LTE rollouts and bring more of their customers over to 4G services, but if Entel can maintain this high level of network availability it will be in a rare operator club indeed.

Movistar by no means performed badly in our measurements – it was merely outshone by upstart Entel. The Telefónica subsidiary had an impressive 4G availability metric of 69%, and its LTE download average of 14 Mbps was just above the global average. América Móvil’s Claro, however, clearly has a lot of room for improvement. Its LTE speed of 4.7 Mbps more resembles the typical 3G experience than a 4G experience, but Claro maintained a respectable LTE availability metric of 59%.

The big disparity in operator 4G capabilities is likely a reflection of the spectrum situation in Peru. While Movistar and Entel took home big hunks of new spectrum in Peru’s first 4G auction, giving them the building blocks for their LTE networks, Claro has been forced to cobble together its LTE network from old 2G spectrum.

You can find the full Peru report here, complete with interactive charts and our full analysis. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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GSMA ranks the world’s access to the mobile internet (with a little help from OpenSignal)

While OpenSignal publishes plenty of its own reports, we occasionally contribute our data to other research projects focusing on global mobile trends. Last week the GSM Association launched just such a research initiative, and it’s quite the undertaking. Called the Mobile Connectivity Index, the extensive report attempts to categorize the mobile internet adoption, readiness and performance of 134 countries.

The Mobile Connectivity Index ranks 134 countries in terms of access to the mobile internet (Source: GSMA)

The Mobile Connectivity Index ranks 134 countries in terms of access to the mobile internet (Source: GSMA)

In compiling the report, GSMA Intelligence drew upon OpenSignal’s mobile speed and latency data, which we collect from millions of users in OpenSignal’s crowdsourced community. But speed test and network responsiveness data only make up a portion of this ambitious index. The index methodology takes into account not just the telecom infrastructure built in a country but economic factors like rate-plan affordability, demographic factors like literacy and cultural factors like gender equality that make mobile internet services accessible (or inaccessible) to a broad population.

For instance, the Connectivity Index’s infrastructure calculations put significant weight on our download speed and latency measurement, but it places almost as much emphasis on supporting factors like access to electricity and the number of servers per million inhabitants. After all, having a fast and responsive 3G or 4G connection means little if you don’t have a way to charge your phone or have access to content in your native language.

Consequently, a lot of different metrics went into calculating this index, ranging from economic data collected by the World Bank and demographic data tallied by UNESCO. The end result, though, is an index number applied to each country that rates its overall level of mobile accessibility. Australia was at the top of the index with a score of 84.7.

OpenSignal recently published our first State of Mobile Networks report for Australia, and we also found that the land down under was among the global leaders in mobile broadband speeds and availability, though by no means first. The GSMA, however, found that mobile infrastructure wasn’t the determining factor in calculating Australia’s world-leading index score. In fact, several other countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.S. and South Korea beat out Australia in infrastructure. Instead, it was Australia’s superior marks in mobile service affordability, consumer readiness and locally relevant content that pushed it to the top of the list. Conversely Afghanistan had the fifth worst rating on the index, not because it had the most underdeveloped mobile networks. Rather, Afghanistan’s low rating comes from consumer readiness issues ranging from adult literacy to gender inequality.

Countries with the highest Mobile Connectivity Index scores (source: GSMA)

Countries with the highest Mobile Connectivity Index scores (source: GSMA)

The goal of the index is to help the telecom industry to get to universal internet access across the globe by identifying all of the different economic and social levers that can be pulled beyond merely building new networks. It’s also intended to be an indicator of where a country should be in its mobile internet development. For instance, most sub-Saharan countries in Africa have low mobile internet adoption rates, which in most cases line up with their lower connectivity index scores. Meanwhile, there are several countries ranging from China to Poland to Costa Rica that have much higher mobile internet adoption rates than countries with similar index scores. The GSMA calls these countries “fast transitioners,” and in many cases they’ve managed to overcome limitations in infrastructure by making mobile services more affordable or maintaining social institutions that encourage broader internet adoption.

In any case, the index is a fascinating report reflecting an ambitious approach to solving one of the world’s biggest problems, the digital divide. We at OpenSignal are proud to be a part of it.

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Argentina’s infant networks grow to adolescence

It’s been six months since our last Argentina State of Mobile Networks report came out, and over that half year OpenSignal has measured some noticeable differences in Argentina’s 4G performance – but they’re not all improvements. In our new Argentina report released today, we found that Argentina’s fledgling LTE networks have started to spread their wings, providing signal to a greater number of Argentines. But we’re also starting to see Argentina’s already rather sluggish LTE networks slow down further.

Buenos Aires at night (Photo Credit: Flickr user Rodrigo Paredes)

Buenos Aires at night (Photo Credit: Flickr user Rodrigo Paredes)

Once again, Movistar was the operator to beat in 4G during the first quarter. It had the highest LTE availability of the three major Argentina operators as its customers were able to connect to its 4G network 63% of the time. Claro and Personal still have some ground to make up for with 4G availability metrics of 41% and 51% respectively, but both have managed to improve their 4G reach since last year. In 4G speed, Movistar and Personal were statistically tied with download averages between 9 and 10 Mbps, while Movistar also took the prize for overall speed across 3G and 4G networks.

From a global perspective, though, Argentina’s LTE speeds and availability aren’t much to brag about. With the typical LTE connection measuring just 9 Mbps, Argentina is well below the global average of 13.5 Mbps, and in a comparison between the major countries of South America, Argentina falls lagged behind most of its continental peers in both coverage and speed.

What’s more, Argentina’s speeds seem to be slowing down, not speeding up. In November average 4G download speeds ranged from 9.7 to 11.3 Mbps among the three operators. In the first quarter only one operator barely managed to cross the 10 Mbps threshold. Argentina’s LTE networks weren’t that powerful to begin with, utilizing limited amounts of spectrum, but as 4G services start to mature, it appears more customers are competing for that limited bandwidth. Operators will likely solve that problem as soon as they expand LTE into new frequency bands.

You can find the full report here, complete with interactive charts and a more detailed analysis of our data. Let us know what you think below in the comments.

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Keeping up with Australia’s rapidly evolving 4G networks

For our latest State of Mobile Networks report, OpenSignal turns its attention to a new continent. Australia might be geographically distant from Europe and the Americas, but it’s certainly no backwater when it comes to mobile technology. Its operators are so far ahead in deploying the newest and most powerful 4G technologies, that they’re often waiting for the rest of the mobile industry to catch up.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nicki Mannix

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Nicki Mannix

We turned our eye on Australia’s three major operators – Optus, Telstra and Vodafone – to see how their networks stacked up to one another and the world at large. We found some of the fastest LTE speeds in the world with Telstra leading the pack, averaging 23.6 Mbps. We also found widespread LTE connectivity, though when it came to availability the three operators were more evenly matched. Telstra and Vodafone were statistically tied for first place, each providing an LTE signal more than 75% of the time.

Even though Australia’s 4G performance is already impressive, it’s only going to improve. Telstra and Optus have deployed LTE-Advanced networks that just a few mobile devices can fully access today. When we looked at the results from some of those smartphones — for instance the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge — we saw a big boost over typical Australian 4G speeds. This year, Telstra has promised to launch an LTE service that will support theoretical speeds of 1 Gbps even though no phone has yet been built that can tap it. If anything Australia is too far ahead of the curve. By the time devices emerge to support the full capabilities of its networks, we may be well into the 5G age.

You can read the full Australia report here. As always let us know what you think in the comments below.

Posted in LTE, Reports | 1 Comment

Background data collection in our iOS app – settings explained

Our new iOS app is finally here! We’ve released a new version (Version 3.0) of OpenSignal based on feedback that we’ve had from our users, including a sleek new design and more information points throughout the app to explain how the app works.

The coverage maps and network comparisons in the OpenSignal app are 100% crowdsourced from our users. The app collects this information from the user’s device, and we process it and combine it with data from all of the app users to build the independent coverage maps shown the app, based on these real measurements – not models and predictions.

Background data contribution

We are really excited about one new feature in this iOS update that has been available on Android for some time, which allows iPhone users to now contribute data to the OpenSignal crowdsourcing project even when they’re not using the app, i.e. in the ‘background’. This means that iOS users can contribute even more data to help us compare networks and map network performance.

Background data collection does require using GPS, so that we can be sure of the location of the readings the app takes. As ever, we know that some users might not want to contribute data or use their GPS in the background, and that’s why we make the app flexible, and allow you to turn off data contribution if you’d like to.

Default settingsDefault settings

By default, background data collection is already set to off (see the screenshot), and so the app won’t collect any information or use the GPS in the background unless you go to the settings and turn it on.

It’s also possible to turn off data contribution even when the app is open as well – a feature that has always been in the app.

We’re happy our iOS users can finally contribute as much data as our Android app users. If you have any questions about background data collection (or anything about the app and how it works) please contact us on ios@opensignal.com.

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A look at the 4G performance of LTE’s birthplace

For our latest OpenSignal State of Mobile Networks report, we decided to do something a little different. Instead of focusing on a single country, we examined a whole region, namely the Nordic countries. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have a long history of mobile network innovation. The first LTE networks were born in Stockholm and Oslo in 2009, and soon after the entire region took a leading role in deploying the technology.

Image courtesy of NASA

Image courtesy of NASA

Given that history, you would expect the Nordics to have broadly deployed 4G networks, and that’s exactly what we found in the first quarter. In three of the four countries, 4G subscribers were able to see an LTE signal more than 80% of the time, while in Denmark coverage was still an impressive 72%.

When it comes to 4G speeds, though, Europe’s far north isn’t quite the force it once was. All of the Nordic countries had average LTE download speeds faster than the global average, but Finland, Norway and Sweden can’t match the new 20-30 Mbps networks we’re starting to see in East Asia and other parts of Europe. Denmark was the big exception. It averaged 4G speeds in the 25 Mbps range, led by operator TDC.

In the report, we compare the overall performance of each of the Nordic states before diving into the specific results of the operators in each country. We found that while 4G speeds may have fallen off, 3G speeds are unparalleled. We also saw  the impact of the region’s multi-faceted network sharing agreements, which produced a lot of closely matched results between operators.

You can check out the report here, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments below.

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802.11ac: It’s still hard to find, but it’s fast

Three years ago a new Wifi technology debuted promising breakneck speeds that would put our old Wifi technologies to shame. Called 802.11ac, this new networking standard was supposed, at a minimum, to double the speeds over older 802.11n technologies and eventually support multi-gigabit connections. OpenSignal felt it was time to take a look at just how far 802.11ac has come and whether it’s delivering on those promises.

Fortunately we don’t have to make wild guesses. In addition to collecting billions of measurements from cellular networks, OpenSignal’s crowdsourcing app collects plenty of data on Wifi connections, and our WifiMapper app plots the location and quality of public hotspots and private access points around the world. We’re able to drill down into measurements our users have taken from millions of Wifi enabled devices around the world.

We looked at how widespread 802.11ac has become by tracking the amount of time our smartphone users spent connected 802.11ac networks as opposed to other types of Wifi links. The chart below shows the top 10 countries ranked by 802.11ac penetration. The percentages represent each 802.11 technology’s share of overall Wifi connections on smartphones. So in the case of the U.S. , 7.9% of Wifi sessions we tracked were connected via 802.11ac networks and 77.8% of Wifi sessions went over 802.11n networks.

This chart shows the proportion of WIfi sessions made through 802.11ac and 802.11n connections. The remaining percentages are connections made through other 802.11 technologies. (Graphic by Teresa Murphy)

This chart shows the proportion of Wifi sessions made through 802.11ac and 802.11n connections. The remaining percentages are connections made through other 802.11 technologies. (Graphic by Teresa Murphy)

As you can see even in the countries ranked highest, 802.11ac connections are still few and far between. Norway had the highest percentage, but 802.11ac still only accounted for 11.4% of Wifi session time. And those numbers quickly fell off. Outside of our top 10 countries, 802.11ac accounts for less than 5% of Wifi use.

It’s important to keep in mind that in order to make a connection both the smartphone and the router have to support the new Wifi standard, so these numbers don’t give us any kind of absolutes about the number of 802.11ac devices out there. But they do give a fairly good indication of how prevalent the technology is becoming in our everyday mobile lives. Right now 802.11ac isn’t making a big impact, but if the take-up of its predecessor technology is any indication, it could make a much bigger impact quite soon. As the chart shows, 802.11n now accounts for well more than 60% of all Wifi use in the more advanced wireless countries in the world. That’s quite impressive considering the first certified 802.11n phones only appeared in 2010.

Next we looked at average 802.11ac speeds globally, and what we found probably isn’t that surprising. The average 802.11ac connection was at least twice as fast as any connection on an earlier generation technology. That average was 32.4 Mbps, which is hardly pushing gigabit speeds, but then again, the term “gigabit wireless” was always a bit of red herring. While the 802.11ac specification does include configurations that could theoretically attain speeds over 6 Gbps, those types of configurations aren’t in our smartphones. Our single-antenna handheld devices never even get near a gigabit. But the biggest factor impacting speed isn’t the technical standard used; it’s the broadband connection at the other end of the Wifi access point.

This chart shows the average internet speeds OpenSignal smartphone users measured over different types of Wifi connections. (Graphic by Teresa Murphy)

This chart shows the average internet speeds OpenSignal smartphone users measured over different types of Wifi connections. (Graphic by Teresa Murphy)

Even if you were to establish a 400 Mbps connection between your phone and your router, if your broadband connection maxes out at 25 Mbps, then the fastest internet connection you could see would be 25 Mbps. While Wifi technology certainly plays a part in the speeds we’re measuring, the quality of wired broadband speed is likely playing a bigger one. If you’re going to go through the trouble of upgrading to an 802.11ac router, you likely already have a fast broadband connection to back it up.

One thing that did surprise us in our data was that 802.11a actually came out faster than 802.11n in our measurements, even though the latter is a newer generation technology capable of much higher bandwidth. The explanation likely involves 802.11a’s broad adoption in enterprise networking. Big businesses tend to keep their internal Wifi networks private, to manage interference well and to have powerful fiber links to the internet. That could translate into a much better Wifi experience even if the technology used is a bit dated.

Finally, we tallied up all of the devices in our database that connected to an 802.11ac network and found 124 different smartphone models that supported the technology. There’s no question that the 802.11ac is becoming a common feature in new phones. The device that made the most use of that feature? That would be the Nexus 6P. Google’s latest Android phone spent an astonishing 45% of its time on Wifi connected via 802.11ac links. Apparently the type of tech-savvy consumer that invests in Google’s Android showcase phone is the same type of consumer that invests in an 802.11ac network.

This certainly won’t be our last look at 802.11ac and other Wifi technologies. We’re keeping a close eye on 802.11ac’s progress around the globe, and as we gather more and better data on Wifi in general we plan to offer up more insights. We encourage you to lend us a hand by downloading our WifiMapper app. Not only will it help you identify Wifi hotspots in your area, but it will help us map out the global Wifi landscape.

Posted in Wifi, WifiMapper | Tagged , , | 29 Comments

A look at Italy’s high-performance networks

Today OpenSignal published its first State of Mobile Networks report for Italy, and what we found were powerful 4G services that Italian operators can be proud of. Their one limitation was reach. While Italian 4G subscribers were able to connect to LTE networks at speeds in excess of 17 Mbps, those 4G signals were available to them a little more than half the time, according to OpenSignal’s first quarter tests.

Of the four operators compared in the report, Vodafone performed exceptionally well. Vodafone tied for the fastest LTE speed with 3, and it won the awards for fastest 3G network and fastest overall speed across all networks. Most significantly, Vodafone was the big exception to Italy’s generally poor 4G coverage. Its 4G customers were able to see a signal 75% of the time.

There were bright spots in other Italian operators’ performances as well. Telecom Italia Mobile was well ahead of the national average in 4G availability with a coverage score of 68%, and it had the most responsive LTE network in terms of latency. 3 is just a few hundred kilobits away from breaking the 20 Mbps barrier on its LTE network. In addition, we measured speeds of 4.5 Mbps or greater on all four operators HSPA+ networks, putting Italy’s 3G performance well above the global average.

Coverage, though, still remains a problem if Italy wants to enter the top ranks of global 4G countries. With a national coverage average of 58%, Italy shares a distinction with many western European countries for 4G networks with limited reach. According to OpenSignal’s State of LTE report, the U.K., Spain, France, Germany and Ireland all had coverage metrics below 60%.

Be sure to check out the new Italy report, and let us know what you think.

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You’re covered: What operators mean when they talk about coverage

Last week EE CEO Marc Allera made a bold pledge. He promised to expand EE’s 4G umbrella to 95% of the U.K.’s land mass by 2020. At first glance, that may not seem very aggressive considering EE already claims its LTE network reaches 95% of the country. But what Allera is talking about here is a different kind of coverage.

EE’s 4G network currently covers 95% of the U.K. population, but that only equates to about 60% of the total geography of the country. By installing new towers, Allera wants to reach 95% geographic coverage, which means bringing into EE’s 4G footprint a lot of open space that currently doesn’t see LTE signals. EE implied that the current government-mandated definitions of coverage – which are based on population – are outdated.

EE makes a good point, and it raises some interesting questions about how the mobile industry defines coverage. OpenSignal definitely has its own views on the subject so it’s worth a discussion on the different ways of measuring coverage and what they mean to consumers. Let’s look at how these different kinds of coverage are defined:

  • Population coverage: When operators say they have a certain percentage of the population covered, what they mean is that based on a predictive model, that proportion of the country’s residential doorsteps are in range of one of its cell towers. Basically population coverage follows the general boundaries of where people live, not where they work and play. Nor does it account for all the spaces in between or measure indoor coverage.
  • Geographic coverage: If you’re measuring coverage by land mass, you’re accounting for all those roads and railways, buildings and parks, and fields and farmland outside of where people live. While networks built with population coverage in mind take in a lot of these places, they don’t take them all into account, especially in rural and remote regions of a country. Attaining a high level of geographic coverage can be difficult depending on the country. For instance, it’s a lot easier to cover the land mass of a compact and flat country like the Netherlands than it is to cover all of Chile, which is 80% mountains, or Algeria, which is 80% desert.
  • Time Coverage: This is the term OpenSignal coined for our way of measuring coverage, and you can think of it as an indicator of network availability. Essentially time coverage measures coverage from the user’s perspective, not the network’s, tracking the network’s availability wherever mobile users happen to go. While networks with high population coverage or high geographic coverage often have high time coverage, that isn’t always the case. Most U.K. operators have nearly 100% of London’s land area covered by 4G networks, but any Londoner can tell you they don’t see a 4G signal 100% of the time. It doesn’t matter whether a user is indoors or out, standing still or driving or if the network is overloaded or uncongested, time coverage measures signal availability wherever and whenever subscribers use their phones.

Obviously we’re pretty partial to time coverage for benchmarking 3G and 4G because we feel it reflects the typical user experience. Instead of mapping a network footprint and then predicting how many users fall within its borders, OpenSignal maps where users actually go and then tests to see if a particular network is available. That said, population and geographic coverage are plenty useful as metrics in their own right. A high population coverage would be an important consideration for business people traveling extensively from city to city and town to town. Meanwhile a high geographic coverage would be key to those who spend a lot of time between cities and towns or off the beaten track.

Coverage can be a tricky thing, and the metrics anyone chooses to use have to be interpreted. Your network can have the highest population, geographic or time coverage in the country, but there’s still no guarantee you’ll see a signal in the places you frequent most, whether that’s in your basement, in the corridors of your office or on the commuter train you take to work. Ultimately the coverage map that matters the most is your personal coverage map.

Posted in Comparing Coverage, Crowdsourcing, LTE, Networks, Networks' Own Coverage Maps | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

U.K. 4G networks pack a punch but have a short reach

We’re starting to see some powerful 4G networks emerge in the U.K. The problem is those 4G signals don’t find their way to that many places. In partnership with consumer advocacy group Which?, OpenSignal today released its State of Mobile Networks report for the U.K. We found more operators providing faster LTE connections, but overall LTE coverage in the U.K. leaves a lot to be desired.

One of the biggest surprises in our report, which drew on 60 million tests conducted between November and January, was the big improvement in 4G speed we measured on 3. The operator recently upgraded its LTE networks with new spectrum and capacity, and it didn’t take long for those improvements to bear fruit. We measured average 4G speeds for 3 at 18.7 Mbps, which put it in a statistical tie with Everything Everywhere for fastest U.K. network in our test period.

Photo Credit: 3

Photo Credit: 3

3, however, is still far behind EE, 02 and Vodafone in 4G coverage. 4G subscribers on 3’s networks only saw an LTE signal 39.8% of the time. EE won the 4G overage category with a metric of 60.6%, but overall the U.K. made a rather poor showing when it comes to providing highly available LTE networks. Countries in Northern Europe and North America are already achieving coverage levels greater than 70%, while in some parts of East Asia, LTE is just as widespread as 3G.

OpenSignal collaborated with Which? to take an in-depth look at the U.K. mobile scene. As part of that effort, Which? conducted a consumer satisfaction survey that gauged consumer perception of U.K. operators. You will have to wait a bit longer to read the results of the survey, to be published in the next issue of Which?’s magazine.

The performance of and consumer satisfaction with the U.K.’s mobile operators is certain to be a hot button topic as the telecommunications market there continues to consolidate. 3 and 02 are looking to merger operations shrinking the number of nationwide operators from four to three. OpenSignal recently took a look at what that merger could mean for 4G quality by looking at how consolidation has impacted other European countries.

Expect our next U.K. State of Mobile Networks report in six months, at which point a lot may have changed. If you’d like to contribute to that report, we encourage you to download OpenSignal’s iOS or Android app and start collecting data on your local operator. Meanwhile, let us know what you think of our current findings.

Posted in LTE, Networks, Reports | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments