OpenSignal Blog

Claro Brazil leads the medal count in OpenSignal’s Olympics

The Rio Olympics may be over, but OpenSignal still has a few medals to award. In our first look at Brazil’s mobile networks after the chaos of the games, we found that Brazil’s five major operators all represented their country well, but there was one operator that wound up on top of the medal podium more than others. That operator was Claro.

Photo courtesy of the IOC

Photo courtesy of the IOC

In OpenSignal’s State of Mobile Networks for Brazil, released today, Claro won all three of our speed awards, an impressive feat considering Vivo dominated those categories in our July report. Claro, however, was one of the Olympic sponsors, and it made quite the fuss about making the Rio games the most connected Olympics history. It seems to have backed up those claims with some big capacity and speed upgrades to its LTE network. In our last report (which covered February through April), Claro’s LTE download speed average was 2 Mbps below the global 4G average in our measurements. In this report, though, our tests (conducted between September and November) show Claro’s LTE download speed at 27.5 Mbps, 10 Mbps faster than the global 4G average. Claro ranked highest in 3G speed and overall speed as well.

The other operators didn’t leave the OpenSignal games empty handed. Oi and Nextel split our latency medals, while Telecom Italia Mobile had the best 4G availability in our measurements. Though Vivo didn’t win the gold any of our categories, it took silver in several, including 4G availability, 4G speed and overall speed.

Overall, we’re starting to some fast 4G networks emerge in Brazil, but one area in which Brazilian operators still lag is 4G availability. No operator was able to deliver an LTE connection more than 60% of the time in our measurements, and our testers were able to find a LTE signal on Claro and Oi less than 50% of the time. Brazil’s 4G networks are getting faster, but operators clearly need to work on expanding 4G’s reach.

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Free 4G means Jio users have little need for Wifi

It’s only been a few months since Reliance Jio launched its new LTE-only mobile service in India, but it’s already causing quite the stir. Jio has tapped into a pent-up demand for inexpensive mobile data services, not just by offering extremely cheap plans, but also by throwing out an introductory offer that includes free 4G data for the remainder of 2016. It’s since extended that deal into the beginning of 2017, though it will begin limiting customers to 1 GB a day.

As you might imagine, that offer has had a big impact. Since September it has signed up 50 million customers and has triggered a price war among India’s established mobile operators. At OpenSignal, we first caught sight of Jio’s LTE network in February (when Jio trial users started downloading OpenSignal’s test app), and since then more than 70,000 Jio smartphone users have joined the OpenSignal community, running millions of 4G availability, speed and latency tests. We plan on examining Jio’s performance — along with those of India’s many other operators — in a report sometime in the future, but we thought it would be interesting to point out one particularly interesting trend we’ve already noticed among Jio subscribers: a very low usage of Wifi.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Arian Zwegers

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Arian Zwegers

Along with tracking the performance of their chosen mobile networks, our users also collect data on the Wifi connections they make with their smartphones. Wifi has become an important mobile technology in much of the world. Our recent Global State of Mobile Networks report shows that in 46 countries smartphone users spend more time connected to Wifi than they do to mobile data networks like 3G and 4G. But that’s not the case for Jio users, who almost seem to be deliberately shunning Wifi. Looking at our data from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 (the three months in which Jio has been available to the widespread public), Jio users connected to Wifi networks on average 8.2% of the time. That’s well below India’s 29.8% average time on Wifi from our global report. Here’s how the major operators in India compared in Wifi usage:

Time on Wifi by operator

  • Jio                  8.2%
  • Idea               24.1%
  • Telenor          24.3%
  • Aircel            24.9%
  • Airtel             27.1%
  • Reliance        28.1%
  • Tata DoCoMo 30.4%
  • BSNL             31.1%
  • Vodafone      31.3%

So why is Jio’s number so low? There’s no way to say for certain, but there are a few likely explanations. One of the biggest drivers of Wifi usage on the smartphones is the cost of the mobile data. If you have an expensive data plan, you tend to look for cheaper connections to offset your mobile bill and in most cases Wifi is just the ticket. But what if you get 4 GBs of 4G data daily for no additional charge as Jio users now receive? There’s not much incentive to seek out a Wifi link.

Another big factor in encouraging smartphone usage is performance. Everything being equal, people tend to gravitate toward the fastest connections as services like video streaming perform better on high-bandwidth links. When confronted with slow 2G or 3G data connections, smartphone users will hunt for Wifi to improve their data experience. But in Jio’s case it has no 2G or 3G networks. Also, Wifi is only good as the broadband link that serves it, and India’s average broadband speeds are the slowest in Asia. Since Jio’s users are by default contending with 4G networks only, they have little incentive to seek out Wifi, especially if those Wifi connections might turn out slower than LTE.

Whatever the reason, Jio’s users see little reason to seek out Wifi connections today. It will be interesting to see if that mindset changes once Jio’s free-4G promotion expires in March.

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Argentina begins spreading its 4G wings

As 2016 comes to close, OpenSignal has published one last report for the year, and we’re happy to return to one of our first subjects, Argentina. The South American powerhouse only launched LTE in December of 2014, and in the three State of Mobile Networks reports we’ve produced since, we’ve tracked Argentina’s 4G growth from infancy. It’s still a bit too early to say Argentina’s 4G market is fully mature, but we’ve definitely seen some big growth spurts.

In our last two reports we saw Argentina struggling to deliver a consistent LTE signal, but in our most recent tests it’s plain that the country’s operators have made their 4G services a lot more accessible. OpenSignal’s 4G availability metric measures the proportion of time our users are able to connect to an LTE network, and Claro, Movistar and Personal were all able to deliver a 4G signal more than half that time. The leader in this category, however, was Movistar, with an availability score of 73.6%. Argentina has now closed the gap with most of its South American peers in LTE availability.

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

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

Speed, however, is still a weak area for Argentine operators. The fastest LTE download speeds we found were on Personal, which averaged 16.1 Mbps in our tests, more than a megabit slower than the global 4G average. We measured average 4G speeds on Claro and Movistar of 13 Mbps and 9.3 Mbps respectively. While we’re seeing Argentina’s operators invest more in expanding their 4G reach, they haven’t yet made similar investments in growing capacity, which would boost the speeds their customers see. That could change soon, however, as operators build new LTE systems in the 700 MHz band.

Be sure to check out the full report containing all of our metrics and interactive charts.

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4G around the world: OpenSignal’s State of LTE report returns

In OpenSignal’s latest State of LTE report, we once again look at the speed and accessibility of the world’s LTE networks, this time examining 78 different countries. While we find the usual suspects in the top rankings — for instance Singapore, South Korea and the Netherlands – there are some new faces as well, showing that LTE networks are evolving at different paces across the globe.

State of LTE 11-2016 Map

We’re starting to see LTE download speeds in Singapore, South Korea and Hungary push well over 40 Mbps, and several more countries now have average connections in excess of 30 Mbps. While the average for most countries falls in the 20 Mbps to 25 Mbps range, the global average LTE connection is 17.4 Mbps, reflecting the fact that the most populated nations often have rather sluggish LTE services. For instance, average 4G speeds in India were 6.4 Mbps, and the average for the U.S. was 14 Mbps.

As for 4G availability, which is the proportion of time users have access to an LTE signal, we see 3G receding as the driver of mobile data connections in much of the world, but it still fills in the key connectivity gaps between 4G signals. Two countries, South Korea and Japan, had availability numbers over 90%, but a good third of the countries we examined were able to deliver an LTE signal more than 70% of the time, reflecting well developed LTE infrastructures. An equally large group of countries fell below the 60% mark though. These low-4G-availability countries weren’t just developing nations; several of the biggest countries in western Europe fell into this group.

To see OpenSignal’s full analysis and interactive charts, check out the new report.

Posted in LTE, Networks, Other, Reports | 6 Comments

A merged Wind and 3 will play 4G catchup in Italy

Italy’s competitive landscape is going to look a lot different next year when No. 3 and No. 4 operators Wind and 3 combine into a single provider bigger than both TIM and Vodafone. But according to our new State of Mobile Networks report for Italy, a merged Wind and 3 will need to make the most of their joint spectrum and network assets if they plan to close the 4G performance gap with their rivals.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Moyan Brenn

Image courtesy of Flickr user Moyan Brenn

OpenSignal’s analysis found there was a clear split between the current larger and smaller operators in Italy when it comes to providing a consistent LTE connection. Both Vodafone and TIM were able to supply our testers with a 4G connection more than 65% of the time, but our users could find a similar connection on neither Wind nor 3’s LTE networks more than 40% of the time. Both Wind and 3 both offered good 4G speeds, the problem was those 4G speeds weren’t available to users all that often.

It was Vodafone that emerged as the most dominant force in our performance tables. It won five of our six awards outright and tied with TIM for the sixth. It not only had the fastest HSPA and LTE connections in our tests but also the most widely accessible 4G signals. When we broke down our data in Italy’s four largest cities, we found Vodafone once again won big in our speed tests, but it faced a stiffer challenge from TIM in 4G availability.

In Milan, Naples and Rome TIM and Vodafone were statistically tied in 4G availability in our tests, but TIM won our availability award in Turin outright, as it was able to supply our users with an LTE link an impressive 85.6% of the time. In fact, we measured  impressive 4G performance in Turin overall. The fastest speeds we measured in Italy were on Vodafone’s LTE network in Turin, averaging 50.7 Mbps.

For our full analysis including a look at our interactive charts, check out the full Italy report.

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AT&T battles it out with Telcel in Mexico

It’s been less than two years since AT&T crossed the U.S. border, buying up Mexico’s two smallest mobile providers, but in that short time it’s managed to build up quite the impressive mobile data operation. In our second State of Mobile Networks report for Mexico, AT&T won our awards for fastest overall and 3G speeds, and ran neck-and-neck with mega-operator Telcel for best 4G availability.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Blok 70

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Blok 70

Telcel, however, is no operator to be trifled with. It won our 4G speed award with an average download connection of 23.3 Mbps. Telcel also had the more responsive LTE network in our tests, winning OpenSignal’s 4G latency award. But despite its big 4G numbers, Telcel didn’t deliver the fastest overall mobile data experience in our analysis. AT&T’s combination of fast 3G, fast 4G and generally high LTE availability resulted in our users measuring an aggregate download speed of 10.9 Mbps, compared to 8.5 Mbps for Telcel and 4.6 Mbps for Movistar.

Availability, which measures the percentage of time a user is connected to a particular network, was a much closer contest. We found an LTE signal on both AT&T and Telcel around 65% of the time, resulting in a statistical tie. Movistar clearly has some catching up to do in this category. Our testers were only able to latch onto a Movistar LTE signal 51.4% of the time.

For our full analysis of 3G and 4G performance in Mexico, check out the report.

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A region-by-region look at the UK’s 3G and 4G performance

Today OpenSignal released its State of Mobile Networks for the U.K. in partnership with consumer advocacy group Which?. Our report drew on 500 million measurements tracking the 3G and 4G performance of the U.K.’s four major operators, but as an added bonus we decided to see how the different regions of the country compared, and the results were surprising indeed.

ukmappic

We looked at the 4G and overall speeds and availability in the nine official regions of England as well as in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. You would expect London to be at the top of the heap when it comes to mobile data performance given the investment operators have made in the capital, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. 3G and 4G signals were more readily available in London than in the rest of the kingdom, according to our measurements, but when it came to speed London didn’t fare as well as half the country. In terms of 4G speed, in fact, London came in dead last in our tests.

Data Source: OpenSignal

Data Source: OpenSignal

OpenSignal smartphone users experienced average download speeds of 18.8 Mbps in greater London, while in the other 11 regions average speeds were 20 Mbps or greater. The best performing region was the one most distant from the capital, Northern Ireland, where we measured average download speeds of 23.3 Mbps. Why the shortfall in the capital? London networks may be powerful, but they also carry some of the biggest loads of LTE users in the country. What we’re most likely seeing in London are networks experiencing higher levels of congestion, which in turn drags down average speeds.

When we factored in 3G connections, London performed much better. The capital’s overall mobile data speed average was 12.9 Mbps in our tests, which put it in the middle of the table. London’s 4G connections may have been the slowest in the country, but it provided a 4G signal much more often, which boosts the typical speeds our users measured. Northern Ireland, however, performed best in overall speed as well, closely followed by Yorkshire and the Humber. Our users in both regions saw average overall speeds greater than 15 Mbps.

Data Source: OpenSignal

How often you can see an LTE signal has obviously a big impact on the overall mobile data experience. After all, a 4G network is only so useful if you can only rarely connect to it. Our availability metric, which measures the proportion of time our users were able to latch onto a signal, varied quite dramatically from region from region. London performed best in this category as OpenSignal users were able to access an LTE connection 69.7% of the time. The North East and Yorkshire and the Humber also scored above 60% in this category. In four regions, however, 4G signals were accessible less than 50% of the time: the East Midlands, East of England, South West and Wales. In Wales 4G availability was particularly poor. We were only able to see the LTE network there 35.4% of the time.

Luckily the U.K. still has 3G to fall back on. In most regions, our testers were able to get a 3G or better connection more than 80% of the time, though London was the only region where that number increased beyond 90%. The regions with the lowest access to mobile data were Scotland, Wales and the South West, all of which had availability scores below 80%.

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OpenSignal takes a first look at Chile

OpenSignal turned its analytical eye on several of the countries of Latin America this year, examining the mobile performance of operators in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru, but we’re not done yet. Today OpenSignal released its first State of Mobile Networks report on Chile.

Image courtesy of Flickr user [-_-] JORGE

Image courtesy of Flickr user [-_-] JORGE

South America’s backbone has four operators and we found that each of the them stood out in at least one of our award categories. A different operator each won one of our three speed awards. We measured the fastest 4G speeds on Claro and the fastest 3G speeds on Entel, but OpenSignal’s overall speed prize went to Movistar, which may not have had the fastest raw speeds in our tests, but delivered the most consistently fast mobile data connections to our users.

One of the reasons Movistar scored so highly in overall speeds was the accessibility of its 4G signals. It shared our award for best LTE availability with WOM as our testers were able to latch onto a 4G signal on both operators’ networks more than 60% of the time. Where Chile’s operators really shine though is in 3G/4G availability. All four operators were able to deliver a 3G or better signal more than 87% of the time in our tests, making Chile the most accessible country in South America in terms of mobile data.

To see the full results and analysis, be sure to check out the report on our website.

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Parsing Poland’s mobile networks

Today OpenSignal turned its network-testing spotlight on our first Eastern European country: Poland. In our newest State of Mobile Networks report we compared the 3G and 4G performance of Polish operators Orange Polska, T-Mobile, Polkomtel Plus and P4 Play, and we found a hotly contested mobile market. Two operators battled for the title of fastest 4G network, while two different operators waged their own war 4G availability.

Orange and T-Mobile were the two operators contesting the speed crown, each delivering average LTE download speeds of 26 Mbps in our measurement. Play came in last in our speed tests, but it probably won’t stay in that spot for long. Play just announced a big 4G upgrade it calls LTE Ultra, which uses new LTE-Advanced technologies to combine multiple spectrum channels into a single high-powered connection. But the network went live just after our test window closed in July.

When it came to our availability tests we saw a different set of operators vying for top marks. Play and Plus tied for best 4G availability, as we were able to latch onto their respective LTE networks in 63% of our tests. Play, however, won OpenSignal’s award for best 3G/4G availability due to the strength of its HSPA footprint.

You can find the full report, which includes all of the 3G and 4G metrics we tracked, on OpenSignal’s website.

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How South America’s mobile data networks stack up

OpenSignal this week released its first-ever Global State of Mobile Networks report, which looks at the combined performance of 3G and 4G networks in 95 different countries. Along with the report, we’re also publishing a short series of blog posts exploring specific regions. We started with Europe on Wednesday, and today we tackle South America.

The chart below shows us how 11 South American countries compared when we plotted combined 3G and 4G availability and 3G/4G speed on different axes.

3G/4G speed vs. 3G/4G availability

3G/4G speed vs. 3G/4G availability

In general, South America’s data networks are behind much of the developed world in speed, with all nations save Uruguay providing an average mobile data speed less than 10 Mbps. But most of South America did admirably in terms of 3G/4G signal availability. These metrics combined would indicate that while LTE is still in development, the region’s 3G networks are fairly mature. All but three of the 11 countries in our sample were able to deliver a 3G or better signal to their mobile users 80% of the time. Two countries, Chile and Peru, had 3G/4G availability metrics higher than 90%.

Having a large population or economic influence had little bearing on countries’ performance in the region. The country that performed best, Uruguay, had the 2nd smallest population in our sample, followed by Peru and Chile. South American powerhouse Brazil performed poorly compared to its peers providing a 3G or better signal available only 75% of the time and overall speeds just a little bit better than the regional average.

To see the specific numbers for each country in South America, check out the full report.

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