State of Mobile Networks: Costa Rica (August 2016)

OpenSignal has partnered with Sutel to look at the 3G and 4G performance of Costa Rica's three major operators, drawing on nearly 20 million measurements conducted by our users in this Central American country. Our tests revealed plenty of mobile data connectivity in Costa Rica, but a fast mobile broadband connection was much harder to find. (For a Spanish version of this report click here.)

Report Facts

19,748,200
Measurements
1,836
Test Devices
2016-05-01 - 2016-07-31
Sample Period
Costa Rica
Report Location

Highlights

Movistar dominates our 4G metrics

Though LTE services are still limited in Costa Rica, Movistar's network stood out in our tests. The local Telefónica subsidiary won OpenSignal's awards for fastest 4G speeds and highest 4G availability.

4G speeds are very slow

The typical LTE connection in Costa Rica is 5.8 Mbps, about one third of the global average. The fastest 4G download speeds we measured were on Movistar's LTE network, averaging 7.1 Mbps.

3G is widely available

3G services are highly accessible in Costa Rica. Our users were able to find a 3G or better signal on every operator's network more than 88% of the time. Those HSPA services help fill in the gaps as operators build out their 4G footprints.

Overall mobile data speeds are still limited

Limited 4G availability meant limited access to LTE's relatively faster speeds. That combined with generally sluggish 3G and 4G performance resulted in the typical mobile data connection in Costa Rica being quite slow. We measured the fastest overall average speed on Movistar at 3.2 Mbps.

Awards Table

Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Latency: 4G Latency: 3G Availability: 4G Availability: 3G/4G

Claro

Kölbi

medal medal

Movistar

medal medal medal medal medal medal medal

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Performance by Metric

Download Speed: 4G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: 3G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: Overall

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.

Latency: 4G

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.

Latency: 3G

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.

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.

Availability: 3G/4G

This metric shows the proportion of time users on each network have a 3G or 4G (LTE) connection available to them.

Analysis

It's certainly not difficult to find a mobile data connection in Costa Rica, but finding a fast mobile data connection is a different story. OpenSignal has partnered with telecom regulator Sutel for its first State of Mobile Networks report for Costa Rica, and what we found is a country that has highly available 3G services, but still lacks the capacity to deliver fast mobile broadband connections.

For this report we drew upon 19.7 million measurements from 1,836 OpenSignal smartphone users in Costa Rica between May 1 and July 31. We examined 3G performance and (where available) 4G performance on the networks of all three major operators: América Móvil's Claro, Grupo ICE's Kölbi and Telefónica's Movistar. First, let's take a look at the accessibility of mobile data services in Costa Rica.

Rather than measure geographic coverage, OpenSignal's availability metric tracks the proportion of time users can find a signal on a particular network. Looking first at 4G, our testers were able to connect to Movistar's LTE network 63.2% of the time and to Kölbi's LTE network 44.4% of the time. Though Claro launched its first 4G service in 2014, the number of tests we have on its LTE network is still very limited, so we've excluded the operator from our 4G metrics.

When we expanded our analysis to include 3G, we found a much more pervasive mobile data infrastructure. Movistar was again the leader, delivering a 3G or better signal 96.2% of the time in our tests. Both Claro and Kölbi had impressive performances in this category as well, each with overall mobile data availability scores of 88.6%. In fact, in our most recent Global State of Mobile Networks report, Costa Rica fell among an elite group of countries able to deliver a 3G or better signal more than 90% of the time.

While Costa Rican operators stood out in network availability, we can't say the same about network speed. The fastest 4G download speeds we measured, 7.1 Mbps, were on Movistar's LTE network. To put that in perspective the global average for LTE connections is 17.4 Mbps, and in our most recent State of LTE report Costa Rica was the slowest of the 78 countries we examined in 4G speeds. The 3G speeds we measured on all three operators were also relatively low. Those slow 3G and 4G speeds, combined with Costa Rica's still limited access to 4G, meant overall mobile data speeds were also quite low, ranging from 1.8 Mbps to 3.2 Mbps (we only used 3G data in our calculations for Claro's overall speed).

The final metric we examined was latency, which is essentially the reaction time of a network. A lower latency connection leads to better mobile data performance in many applications such as real-time communications apps and web browsing. In both 3G and 4G latency we recorded statistical draws between Movistar and Kölbi.

While Costa Rica has laid a great foundation for mobile data services, it's still suffering from a lack of capacity, which ultimately determines the speeds Costa Rican consumers have access to. Operators have an opportunity to boost their 4G capacity in the coming year, though. Sutel has announced plans to auction off spectrum in two frequency bands in the first half of 2017. Those airwaves could be used to boost LTE speeds significantly.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. We collect 2 billion individual measurements every day from tens of millions of smartphones worldwide.

Our measurements are collected at all hours of the day, every day of the year, under conditions of normal usage, including inside buildings and outdoors, in cities and the countryside, and everywhere in between. By analyzing on-device measurements recorded in the places where subscribers actually live, work and travel, we report on mobile network service the way users truly experience it.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the changing experience of consumers on mobile networks and, therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data, see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 19,748,200 datapoints were collected from 1,836 users during the period: 2016-05-01 - 2016-07-31.

For every metric we've calculated statistical confidence intervals and plotted them on all of the graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric, our measured results are too close to declare a winner in a particular category. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

©2016 OpenSignal, Inc. All rights reserved.

OpenSignal, Inc retains ownership of this report including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports produced by OpenSignal, Inc may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent.

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