Mexico's mobile market is rapidly changing, and not everyone is changing by choice. Long dominant Telcel faces new regulations forcing owner América Móvil to find ways to shrink rather than grow. Meanwhile a new competitive threat has emerged in the form of AT&T. Drawing on 43 million measurements collected by 29,000 OpenSignal users, we took a closer look at the new competitive mobile landscape in Mexico, seeing how its three national operators compare.
When U.S. mega-operator AT&T took over Iusacell and Nextel last year, it promised to invest heavily in their combined networks. We definitely saw the results of that investment between December and February. AT&T Mexico matched its larger rivals in 4G speed and, thanks to its robust 3G infrastructure, lead in overall mobile data speed.
Mexico's wireless giant Telcel won OpenSignal's award for best LTE availability. Its 4G customers were able to see an LTE signal 64.7% of the time in our testing period. Telcel also had the most responsive 4G network, landing the award for lowest LTE latency.
The race for the 4G speed crown was so close we wound up measuring a statistical tie between Telcel, Movistar and AT&T, all of which averaged LTE download speeds between 9.3 and 10.2 Mbps. AT&T took the prize for 3G speed with an average download connection of 2.8 Mbps.
Mexico falls squarely in the middle of the global operator pack when it comes to 4G availability, but its operators' 4G speeds are well short of the global download average of 13.5 Mbps.
|Download Speed: 4G||Download Speed: 3G||Download Speed: Overall||Latency: 4G||Latency: 3G||Availability: 4G|
This metric shows the proportion of time OpenSignal users have an LTE connection available to them on each operator’s network. It's a measure of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed experienced by OpenSignal users across all of an operator's 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE availability tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend more time connected to slower 3G networks.
This metric shows the average latency for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.
This metric shows the average latency for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.
While Telcel is still the largest and most dominant operator in Mexico (it serves 70% of all mobile subscribers), AT&T's entrance into the country — and the sizable investments accompanying it — are hard to ignore. AT&T Mexico launched its first LTE service in October, three years behind Movistar and Telcel, yet it managed to bring 44 million people (one third of Mexico's population) under its new 4G umbrella by the end of 2015. AT&T's LTE download speeds are now on par with its two rivals at around 10 Mbps. In fact, all three operators shared the fastest 4G network award during our test period as their results were close enough to produce a statistical tie.
AT&T, however, won the ribbon for fastest 3G network handily, averaging download speeds of 2.8 Mbps, compared to Movistar's 2 Mbps and Telcel's 1.9 Mbps. Because of those superior HSPA+ connections, AT&T also took the award for fastest overall speed, which measures the average speed all of an operator's users experience across both its 3G and 4G networks. Telcel came in second at 3.8 Mbps because of its strong LTE availability (its customers connected to faster 4G networks more often), while a combination of slower 3G and less LTE availability landed Movistar in the last slot for overall speed.
Mexico's biggest operator did assert itself when it came to other 4G milestones. Telcel won OpenSignal's top awards for LTE availability and LTE latency, meaning its 4G customers had access to an LTE signal more often and their data connections were typically more responsive.
OpenSignal's availability metric (*) measures the proportion of time a subscriber can see a signal on a particular network. In Telcel's case, its 4G users were able to connect to its LTE network 64.7% of the time during our three-month test period. AT&T wasn't far behind, though, with an availability of 62.2%, while Movistar again brought up the rear with a score of 56.2%.
Our final measurement, latency, tracks the reaction of time of a network. Lower latency means web pages begin loading faster and less delay between responses in real-time communications apps like video chat. Telcel had the lowest (best) latency for 4G at 62 milliseconds, while AT&T had the lowest 3G latency at 138ms.
Mexico's three mobile operators may face close 4G competition from one another, but globally the country is falling behind when it comes to technology. Mexico's average LTE speed is more than 3 Mbps behind the worldwide average of 13.5 Mbps, measured in our last State of LTE report. Operators in many other countries are building their second and even third LTE networks in new frequency bands to boost capacity and using new LTE-Advanced technologies to amplify speeds, but Mexico is falling behind the curve. It's not alone, however. Its neighbor to the north, the U.S., is also losing its technology edge as are many of 4G's early movers like Japan and Germany.
That situation could change in the near term. Both Telcel and AT&T recently won new 4G licenses, which both operators could use to bolster their LTE capacity and speeds. Even without new spectrum though, we're likely to a see a lot change in the Mexican wireless market as AT&T ramps up its international mobile operations and América Móvil breaks up its local telecom empire. Our next State of LTE for Mexico will come out in six months, and it could be a very different report from the one you're reading today.
(*) Editor’s note: When this report was originally published OpenSignal used the term time coverage for what is now our availability metric. We changed the name to avoid confusion of this metric with geographic and population coverage metrics, and we have reflected that change in our old reports. The new terminology, however, does not reflect a new methodology. Time coverage and availability represent the same measurement: the proportion of time OpenSignal users can connect to a particular network.
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