OpenSignal Blog

Asia, it’s your turn: an in-depth look at Malaysia’s mobile sector

How Malaysia's operators stacked up in the Kuala Lumpur region (Image by OpenSignal)

How Malaysia’s operators stacked up in the Kuala Lumpur region (Image by OpenSignal)

Last week OpenSignal released its first State of Mobile Networks report for an Asia country, Malaysia. We explored the 3G and 4G performance of that country’s four major operators: Telenor’s DiGi, Axiata’s Celcom, Maxis Communications and U Mobile. This definitely won’t be our last Asian report, though.

Asia is not only the most populated region of the world, but it has a diverse range of economies and cultures, and therefore a wide range of mobile markets. Japan and South Korea join city states Singapore and Hong Kong on the cutting edge of 4G technology, while emerging economies like Thailand and Indonesia are just getting their first LTE networks off the ground. The largest countries in the world, India and China, are in Asia, and they’ve both become major actors on the global mobile stage.

Asia isn’t lacking for interesting mobile markets to explore, and OpenSignal will be examining many of them in our future public interest reports. OpenSignal can’t perform that kind of analysis without data, so if you’re a mobile subscriber in Asia (or anywhere else in the world) looking to help us plot the mobile performance of your hometown networks, be sure to download the OpenSignal app (available on iOS and Android).

In the mean time, check out our Malaysia report. We look not only at 3G and 4G trends nationally; we also zero in on the beating heart of Malaysia’s economy and industry: the metropolitan region of Kuala Lumpur.

Posted in LTE, Networks, Reports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

WifiMapper, one year later

Only one year ago WifiMapper was first released into public beta on iOS and Android – it’s so grown up now! (sniffle sniffle – hand me a tissue, will you?)

Sentimentality aside, we’re really proud of how far the app has come, and very grateful to our users and our beta-testing community for continuously adding and editing Wifi hotspots and giving us invaluable feedback on how to make the app the best free Wifi finder out there. Here are the stats from the first year.

24 March 2015 24 March 2016
Wifi database from OpenSignal app  475 million  1 billion
Hotspots suggestions by WifiMapper users  None yet! ~110,000
Free hotspots in WifiMapper 2 million 3.4 million

Those are the numbers, but how did the app change to support Wifi finding? Let’s look at the timeline.

WifiMapper Development Timeline

A picture is worth a thousand words (although a few more words would be nice too), so here are some of the screenshots of the app from different releases.

The Original (Public Beta Release)

Core WifiMapper functions – the Wifi map, list, details page, editing function were already formed in the public beta release of WifiMapper on iOS. At this point, paid hotspots were still in the app by default. You can also see one of the tour designs before it was implemented, with the “Lorem ipsum” text.

WifiMapper free hotspot details pageWifiMapper paid hotspot details page

WifiMapper tour screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Android, there was the Wifi map and list, and you could auto-connect to Wifi hotspots in range. There was also a simple version of the Wifi details page.

WifiMapper on Android Public Beta hotspot map

WifiMapper Android Public Beta Map and List

WiifiMapper Public Beta Details page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WifiMapper Launch

The app changed a lot between the public beta release and the launch for both apps. On WifiMapper iOS (see first two screenshots), the layout of the details page was optimized and the app was changed to have only free hotspots by default (as finding the best free Wifi was, and is, the point). WifiMapper Android’s launch (last two screenshots) saw the implementation of the classic WifiMapper designs and features, as well as the really cool Android-only Wifi history page.

WifiMapper Launch map and listWifiMapper Launch hotspot details page

WifiMapper Android Launch history page

WifiMapper Android Launch details page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WifiMapper Android Sign in with Google + and EmailWifiMapper iOS sign in page (Facebook and email)Email Registration, version 1.1

Version 1.1 saw a change in how you could sign into WifiMapper. Previously, the app only had the option of signing in with Facebook (iOS) or Google+, but that changed here with the addition of an email option.

Filters and Hotspot Groups, version 1.2

While your bank might have free Wifi, you are unlikely to go there on your lunch break. Instead, you’ll probably prefer to find the best local cafe. To make the map and the list more usable, in version 1.2 we added place icons to Wifi hotspots and filters that could pull out the most relevant places on the map and the list. If you also have a subscription to a Wifi network such as Fon, you could add these with the “More hotspot providers” option (which, as you can see from the beta-test of the design, used to be called “Include hotspot groups”). ( Screenshots are from iOS only)

WifiMapper iOS map place icons

WifiMapper iOS filters page

WifIMapper Hotspot providers beta screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaderboards, version 1.3, Favorites & Password sharing, version 1.4

Who doesn’t like a little competition? To appreciate all contributions of local “Wifi Wisdom”, we wanted to reward our users in the new leaderboards of version 1.3. Version 1.4 (currently only on iOS, soon on beta for Android) saw favorites and password sharing implemented. The favorites feature is a prelude to our offline maps, where you can save your WifiMapper Android Leaderboardsfavourite hotspots for Wifimapper Android Holiday editionfuture reference, while the password makes connecting faster – as you don’t have to ask anyone or find the wifi chalkboard.

A little after Leaderboards were released on Android, we also did a fun holiday “Easter egg” for the winter season (that’s an oxymoron, I know). (Screenshots from Android only)

Offline Maps

For version 1.5, offline maps is the next big feature that we’re planning. We’ve been working on it for months and we look forward to bringing WifiMapper to new heights. When you travel you can stay better connected, and you’ll have an offline reference that could help you find the best wifi in a city and the best cities for free wifi. We’ll need lots of help making sure the app is seamless, so please, join our beta program and help out. Thanks! We look forward to hearing from you.

(…. if you haven’t tried WifiMapper and want to get in on the free Wifi awesomeness and join the community of Wifi whizzes, here’s where to download the app on iOS and Android).

Posted in WifiMapper | Leave a comment

Data deep dive: Will the merger of O2 and 3 impact U.K. 4G quality?

With O2 and 3 in the throes of a merger, there’s been a lot of discussion over how the combination of two of the U.K.’s major operators would impact mobile competition. Will reducing the U.K. mobile market to three operators trigger price hikes for consumers? Will consolidation mean less innovation? Will U.K. operators have less incentive to invest in their mobile networks if they have fewer competitors?

We don’t know the answer to all of those question, but OpenSignal is uniquely qualified to address the last of them, as we collect data on mobile networks in more than a hundred countries across the globe. We thought it would be interesting to see if the number of operators in a country had any impact on the quality and performance of its mobile networks. Specifically we looked at 4G, because LTE represents the latest wave of mobile investment, and we looked at major countries in the European Union as they share the greatest similarities to the U.K. in terms of spectrum, regulation and mobile pricing. We took a snapshot of the current market conditions, using data collected in the three months between November 1 and January 31.

The plot chart below shows what we found. Average LTE speed is measured on the horizontal axis and LTE coverage measured on the vertical. Countries that have only three major operators are represented by triangles, while countries with four are squares.

Chart created by Teresa Murphy-Skvorzova (Data source: OpenSignal)

Chart created by Teresa Murphy-Skvorzova (Data source: OpenSignal)

As you can see there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between number of operators and investment in 4G. The Netherlands and Hungary offer two of the most robust LTE networks in Europe, but the former country has four operators while the latter has three. Both the country with the slowest LTE speeds (Germany) and the country with the worst coverage (Ireland) hosted only three operators. But most of the worst performers in our chart were major economies in Western Europe – the U.K., France and Italy – all of which are four-operator markets.

Oddly if there is a pattern we can detect in this plot chart, it’s that a country’s population seems to have a much bigger impact on LTE investment than its number of operators. Smaller northern and eastern European countries, for the most part, have gotten the jump on the EU’s major powers when it comes to building out far-reaching and technologically superior networks. It looks like the best way to tank your country’s LTE performance is to boost your population up to 50 million.

Of course, that’s only one interpretation. A number of factors can influence the coverage and speed averages of any individual country. For instance, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries tend to have a high degree of urbanization, which helps boost their coverage numbers (the more closely packed people are the more likely they will fall under a cell tower’s signal umbrella). Meanwhile, eastern European countries tend to have fewer 4G subscribers, which in turn boosts average LTE speeds (there are fewer people with whom to share 4G capacity).

Keep in mind we’re not saying that the merger of O2 and 3 won’t have an impact on the U.K.’s 4G landscape. Nor are we saying there won’t be any competitive or consumer repercussions from the merger. We’re only saying what our data shows us: in Europe, the number of operators competing in a market doesn’t have any bearing on the performance of its 4G networks.

Posted in Competition, LTE, Networks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Forget crowdsourcing, Plume Labs tries flock-sourcing with connected pigeons

There are several apps out there crowdsourcing environmental data using smartphones on the ground (our app WeatherSignal among them), but Plume Labs has started collecting pollution data directly from the sky with the help of some feathered friends. This week, the Pigeon Air Patrol took flight over London. Each squadron member flies with a backpack containing a nitrogen dioxide sensor, which collects air pollution and ozone level data as the pigeons make their way from the city center to Northeast London.

Pigeon Air

Plume Labs, a global air quality monitor, created the project with the help of DigitasLBi London pigeon racer Brian Woodhouse. If it sounds like a publicity stunt, that’s because it largely is, though certainly for a good cause. The project lasts only three days, and while Plume does expect to collect some useful data about air quality in London skies, the main purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about air pollution and draw attention to Plume’s other crowdsourced data collection efforts (those involving humans, not birds). Twitter UK is lending a hand, helping the London community virtually interact with the project through the handle @pigeonair.

Posted in Crowdsourcing, Sensors, WeatherSignal | Tagged , | Leave a comment

OpenSignal helps Cambridge hunt down its pesky notspots

Cambridge wants to become a hyper-connected U.K. city, providing robust internet access county wide at both the public and private level. In order to become that hyper-connected city, Cambridge first needs to find those places where wireless and wireline access needs improvement or simply isn’t available. That’s where OpenSignal is lending a hand.

OpenSignal is working with Cambridge Ahead to help the local community test mobile and Wifi network availability and speeds. By enlisting the help of everyday residents, Cambridge Ahead hopes to crowdsource a detailed map of the connectivity infrastructure of the city and surrounding areas. In particular, it wants to identify all of the “notspots” where getting a signal or an internet connection is impossible.

Cambridge Ahead is enlisting the local residents and workers to become CambsNotspotters, ferreting out these data dead zones. In this interview with the BBC, one of our co-founders Sam Westwood explains how Notspotters can use the OpenSignal app to perform their sleuthing, while Connecting Cambridge chair Faye Holland details the scope and aims of the project:

While Cambridge is working with OpenSignal for the mobile component, it’s also teamed up with Think Broadband to test home and business broadband connections. The organization is also encouraging Notspotters to log into free public Wifi services offered in public buildings and by U.K. provider The Cloud.

Posted in Crowdsourcing, OpenSignal app, Press, Wifi | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

1.1 billion and counting: Asia spurs a growth spurt in LTE connections

There are 1.1 billion LTE subscribers in the world, but the majority of those 4G users are concentrated in one region: Asia. Wireless industry group the GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association) released new data today showing where LTE has its biggest impact, and while North America and Europe definitely have their fair share of 4G subscribers, 54.3% of all 4G connections in the fourth quarter belonged to the Asia-Pacific region.

GSA LTE subscribers

Chart courtesy of the GSA. Data Source: GSA, Ovum

Asia is by far the world’s most populated continent, so Asia is exactly where you would expect more and more of the world’s 4G user base to gravitate. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Japan, South Korea and Australia were among LTE’s earliest adopters, giving Asia an early lead when it comes to 4G penetration. Those countries, however, can’t fully account for the more than 580 million 4G subscriptions in the region. What we’re seeing is the huge population centers of China, India and Southeast Asia bring their 4G might to bear. According to the GSA, China accounted for 386 million LTE connections in December – more than one third of the worldwide total.

North America accounted for 22.2% of LTE subscribers, thanks mainly to the high volume of U.S. 4G users, while Europe laid claim to 14.8% of the global total. Latin America, the Middle East and Africa split the remaining 8.7%. It’s also interesting to note that this new spate of LTE growth wasn’t a gradual buildup. Rather it was an explosion over the last year. The GSA report found that half of the world’s 1.1 billion LTE subscribers came online in 2015.

Posted in LTE | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can T-Mobile become the operator of rural America?

When OpenSignal released its State of Mobile Networks report for the U.S. last month, we noted T-Mobile’s big uptick in LTE coverage — the result of new network investment using new low-band spectrum. Simply put, T-Mobile customers found that they could connect to data signals in more places, whether in the recesses of buildings or out in the countryside where T-Mobile has traditionally offered little service.

Now it looks like T-Mobile is capitalizing on that newly amped-up coverage, particularly in places outside of its core urban footprint. As reported by FierceWireless, T-Mobile is opening up new stores and expanding online retail sales to an additional 30 million to 40 million people in the U.S. Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference, T-Mobile US CFO Braxton Carter said T-Mobile will make its retail presence felt in Utah, New Mexico and areas of southeastern U.S. where its previously had “zero penetration.” That could mean as many as 400 new stores selling T-Mobile phones and service in the next 18 months, a 10% increase over its current retail store base.

This could open up many new markets to T-Mobile giving it access to potentially millions of new customers. Many of those customers, however, are already served by Verizon, AT&T and regional providers that have long prided themselves on bringing their networks to the U.S. hinterland. According to our fourth quarter data, Verizon is still by far the leader in national 4G coverage, providing an LTE signal to its customer 87% of the time. T-Mobile was closing the gap, though, and its 81% coverage was less than 2 percentage points away from matching AT&T in our report.

T-Mobile’s improving coverage and new stores definitely give it more tools to target these rural and small town customers, but there is a caveat. T-Mobile needs to build those networks well. Just throwing up towers along the interstate highways won’t cut it if T-Mobile truly wants to bring these new rural customers into the fold.

Instead of tracking geographic coverage, OpenSignal’s time coverage metric measures overall network availability. It calculates the percentage of time OpenSignal users can see a signal from a particular network, whether they’re indoors or out, whether they’re standing still on a busy street or driving through country back roads, and whether the network is crowded or relatively uncongested. Time coverage reflects the typical experience an operator’s customers see on a its network. Our data definitely takes rural coverage into account as customers roam about the country, but if an operator’s customers don’t live or work in rural areas they aren’t going to be spending much time trying to connect rural networks.

By expanding its sales presence into these previously uncovered territories, T-Mobile is taking a bit of a risk. These new small town customers will expect the same kind of network availability and reliability their big city counterparts see, and if its networks aren’t up to the task, T-Mobile’s rapidly improving time coverage might actually start suffering.

When we publish our next U.S. report in five months, we’ll have a much better idea of how much progress T-Mobile has made toward becoming the operator for all Americans. And if you happen to be a new T-Mobile subscriber in Utah, New Mexico or Southeast, we’d love for you to download OpenSignal’s smartphone app (available on Android and iOS) to help us track that progress.

Posted in Comparing Coverage, LTE | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

How European countries compare in 4G performance

It’s the third day of Mobile World Congress, so it’s time to present the third set of data we’ve prepared for the event. On Tuesday we ranked Europe’s big cities in overall LTE speeds. Today we’re taking a similar look at Europe on the country level.

We broke out 4G coverage and speed numbers from our recently published State of LTE report to see how 25 countries in Europe compared. First, let’s take a look at coverage:

CoverageGraphEurope

The Netherlands was the obvious star here with 4G subscribers seeing an LTE signal 84% of the time. In fact, most of northern Europe did quite well, which makes sense given the first LTE networks were born in Scandinavia. Eastern Europe had some standouts as well. Outside of those regions, however, LTE coverage starts falling off particularly in Western Europe, where coverage hovers just above 50% in several of the EU’s biggest economies.

SpeedGraphEurope (1)

When we rank these 25 countries by speed, we get a different picture. Eastern European countries Hungary and Romania are among the fastest 4G markets in the world, though both the Netherlands and Denmark impress as well. In our look at Europe’s fastest 4G cities, the Netherlands had three cities ranked in the top 5, implying its operators are doing quite well in supplying urban capacity.

While countries like Spain, France and Greece may not have a lot of 4G coverage, they performed quite well in speed, delivering download averages of 18 Mbps or more. In fact, nearly all European countries exceeded the global LTE download average of 13.5 Mbps.

If you’re in Barcelona for MWC, come visit OpenSignal at our booth, located in Hall 7, stand B15.

Posted in LTE, Mobile World Congress | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ranking European 4G cities by speed

Mobile World Congress is now in full swing, and we’ve already seen plenty of interesting news from Barcelona. Samsung unveiled its newest flagship phones, the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. LG managed to one-up Samsung with the G5, a modular phone with snap-on components that can turn the device into a more powerful camera or a higher fidelity music player. Verizon revealed it has begun 5G network trials.

OpenSignal doesn’t have a new smartphone to debut or network to tout at MWC, but we do have plenty of data to share. Given the big European presence of MWC, OpenSignal decided to dig into our test data to see how some of the largest cities in Europe stacked up in 4G speeds. The following chart shows the average LTE download speeds in 40 of the EU’s major metro areas, drawn from data collected by OpenSignal users in the fourth quarter.

SpeedCitiesEU (1)

As you can see, the cities in the Netherlands have some of the most impressive speeds but there are also some top performers in Eastern European capitals, notably Bucharest, Budapest and Riga. And for those of you attending MWC, Barcelona ranked in the middle of our 40 cities, though with an average LTE connection of 19.8 Mbps, it was by no means slow.
Check out the blog later this week. We’ll post more data on how Europe’s 4G networks during the show. If you happen to be in Barcelona for MWC, come visit at Hall 7, stand B15.

Posted in LTE, Mobile World Congress, Reports | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Sensing Samsung: The evolution of sensors in the Galaxy S series

On Sunday at Mobile World Congress, Samsung is expected to unveil its latest flagship smartphone. There are a lot of speculation and rumors swirling about the hardware and features in the new Galaxy S7, and our CTO James Robinson has even contributed his own ideas on what kind of processors we might see in the S7 based on our crowdsourced data. One thing we’re most excited to see at Samsung’s Unpacked event in Barcelona is the new smartphone’s sensor package.

OpenSignal may be most known for using the radios in smartphones to measure network connections, but our ultimate goal is to use all the sensors in the phone (with permission, of course) as a means to quantify the world around us (One such project is our meteorological crowdsourcing app WeatherSignal). That’s why the Galaxy S line is so compelling to our data scientists. Samsung has always used its flagship smartphone to showcase what a device can do when it interacts with its surroundings.

Ahead of Unpacked this Sunday, we decided to create a chart detailing the history of sensors in the Galaxy line, starting with the release of the Galaxy S in 2010 to the current generation (for a few months at least) Galaxy S6.

SamsungSensorEvolution(blog)

You’ll notice that several of sensors here aren’t listed in Samsung’s official specs. They are there nonetheless – we’re able to detect them with our OpenSignal apps. Some of them are virtual sensors, which take the readings from two or more hardware-based sensors to generate new data. The pedometer is a good example. It analyzes the rhythmic changes sensed by the accelerometer and gyroscope to determine whether you’re taking a step. The Galaxy line tends to be loaded with virtual sensors, and for brevity’s sake we left out some of the most common ones, for instance the orientation and gravitational virtual sensors that detect the relative positon of the phone.

We also included several hardware features that you might not think of as sensors, such as the microphone and camera and the phone’s radio stack. Samsung and other phone makers have been pretty creative over the years in using existing hardware components as sensors. A passive microphone for instance can be used for voice triggers, and the front-facing camera for facial recognition. As for the radios, OpenSignal uses them to collect data on network quality and performance, but they can also be used to directly interact with the local environment. Bluetooth and NFC, for instance, are used as proximity sensors in beacon and payment applications. To see detailed descriptions of all the different types of sensors in smartphones, check out OpenSignal’s Sensor Database.

Now let’s take a look at how the sensor package of Galaxy line has evolved over the years. You can see that Samsung likes to try a lot of new types of sensors and it isn’t afraid to experiment. The original Galaxy S wasn’t exactly a sensor powerhouse, but Samsung gradually added more hardware as the generations progressed. That evolution hit a high point with the S4, which included a host of environmental sensors for measuring external temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. The S4 was essentially a mobile weather station, and many S4 users used our WeatherSignal app to collect loads of useful meteorological data around the world.

Unfortunately Samsung dropped the thermometer and humidity sensor in the S6, but it didn’t drop its commitment to sensors. Rather Samsung shifted its focus away from environmental to personal data gathering. The new sensors emerging in the S5 and S6 were geared toward quantified self (pedometer), health monitoring (heart rate and oxygen saturation sensors), and biometric security (fingerprint scanner).

So what new sensors we expect from the new S7? There are rumors that it may include a retinal scanner, which would fit in with Samsung’s biometric focus, as well as a pressure-sensitive touchscreen. In our data, we’re seeing several new Samsung phones we suspect to be test versions of the different variants of the S7 in the field. We’re unable to detect any new sensors in that data just yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. If Samsung plans to launch a completely new sensor in this generation of Galaxy that currently doesn’t have an Android API, we wouldn’t immediately detect it on our data. That makes us just as curious as everyone else to see what exactly Samsung unveils at Unpacked this Sunday.

OpenSignal is at Mobile World Congress 2016 too: Visit us in Hall 7 at booth number B17 or at the Qualcomm booth in Hall 3.

Posted in Mobile World Congress, OpenSignal app, Quantified Self, Sensors, WeatherSignal | Leave a comment