OpenSignal Insights

What can overall speed tell us about US operators? A lot actually

It’s been a tumultuous 18 months for the U.S. mobile industry. Verizon and AT&T reintroduced unlimited data plans sending their 4G speeds on a rollercoaster ride. T-Mobile asserted itself at the top of our rankings, climbing to first place in all of our metrics, while Sprint asserted itself at the bottom, nearly catching up to rival AT&T. And to cap it all off, we have new merger intrigue as Sprint and T-Mobile attempt to create the country’s third mega-carrier. We felt it would be interesting to look at how all that excitement affected the everyday consumer mobile experience.

Our overall speed metric provides a good indicator of that experience as it encompasses several of our metrics. It doesn’t just account for the fast speeds of LTE connections, but also the slower speeds of the 3G connections when 4G isn’t available. 4G availability is another critical component of the overall speed calculation as consumers who have access to 4G signals more often spend less time on slower 2G and 3G networks. So let’s look at the overall speed for each of the major U.S. operators from the 1st quarter to the 4th quarter of 2017 in nine three-month test increments.

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Can mobile networks cope with the data demand from ultra HD video?

As mobile networks get faster and faster, consumer habits are changing, with users adopting more and more data-hungry activities like streaming video and music, and live gaming. But just as mobile networks develop and improve, so does video quality, with new formats like 4k and 8k appearing on our device screens.

Will mobile networks be swamped by the increasing data demand from ultra HD video, or will 5G step in to save the day? These are the questions OpenSignal CEO Brendan Gill answers in a guest column published in VanillaPlus:

“Thanks to the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) services and apps such as Netflix and YouTube, demand for video content is rising exponentially. Increased demand is just one aspect though. Ultra-high definition video formats such as 4k and 8k may soon become more common for videos viewed on connected devices. As video quality rises, so does the need for faster connections to enjoy seamless streaming.”

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T-Mobile and Sprint’s network future in 3 easy steps

Now that Sprint and T-Mobile’s proposed merger is up and running again, the two operators are revealing many more details about what their combined networks would look like. Even before the merger is finalized, they’re embarking upon a roaming deal that would give Sprint customers access to T-Mobile’s far-reaching and speedy LTE network. Once — and if — the deal closes, Sprint’s CDMA technology will go the way of the dodo. And in the longer term, T-Mobile and Sprint plan to combine spectrum resources to build a formidable 5G network. In a guest column for Wireless Week, OpenSignal CEO Brendan Gill weighed in on each of these network steps and the possible repercussions for consumers on the “New T-Mobile”.

The first step, the roaming deal, is particularly intriguing as T-Mobile has committed to honoring it regardless of whether the merger goes through. But as Brendan explains, T-Mobile gets plenty of benefit from the roaming agreement as well:

“From T-Mobile’s perspective, it’s a very savvy move. Faster speeds and greater 4G reach should increase customer satisfaction on the Sprint network in the near term, reducing churn during the merger period and ensuring it is a more valuable asset by the time it becomes part of the New T-Mobile. Also, once the merger is complete, the combined operator will have to ask many Sprint customers to upgrade their phones. It’s much easier to make that ask if Sprint’s customers have a positive opinion of their service.”

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The gloves are off in Germany but Telekom is still the heavyweight to beat

Competition is set to reach fever pitch in German telecoms, as Telekom has emerged as the victor in OpenSignal’s first look at the market. Telekom has dominated the awards table in our inaugural State of Mobile Networks: Germany report, thrashing its rivals in five out of seven of our categories including 4G download speed and 4G availability.

Our measurements found Telekom’s users experienced the fastest 4G download speeds by far at 33.6 Mbps, over 12 Mbps faster than Vodafone’s average tested speed of 20.9 Mbps, and more than double O2’s 16.6 Mbps.

This trend was repeated in our 4G upload metric, where Telekom’s speed of 11.5 Mbps was close to 5 Mbps faster than either of its rivals in our measurements. Telekom also led fairly comfortably in our overall download speed metric, where its average speed of 30.2 Mbps was over 13 Mbps faster than either of its rivals.

Boxing

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Cry havoc: Italy’s mobile market braces for Iliad’s dogs of war

During his time as a Roman general, Julius Caesar led his legions to victory over the Gallic tribes of France. Skip forward 2,000 years, and the Italian mobile market faces a new invasion from France, in the form of Iliad’s Free.

The new entrant intends to launch services by the summer and plans to invest over one billion euros in Italy. Iliad’s Free has severely disrupted the French mobile market with its low-cost, zero-contract plans, and Italy is braced for a similar spike in competition and an ensuing price war.

Coupled with this, it’s a case of Et tu, Brute? as Italy’s leading operators TIM and Vodafone face a fresh challenge from the merger of friends, Romans, and countrymen, Wind and 3 Italia. The two completed their merger to become Wind Tre at the end of 2016, and have begun to combine their networks in selected regions.

Caesar

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Myanmar’s new 4G networks get a new OpenSignal report

Myanmar may have joined the 4G revolution late, but it’s certainly made up for lost time. In our first State of Mobile Networks report for Myanmar, we found a country with very fast 4G speeds and a high level of access to LTE services. It’s well beyond the stage of mobile broadband development we would normally expect to see in a country just two years into its 4G rollouts.

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (Image courtesy of Flickr User Waldemar Merger)

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon (Image courtesy of Flickr User Waldemar Merger)

We looked at Myanmar’s three established operators in our analysis: MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor. All three operators had commercial LTE services available across large portions of the country during our January-March test period, but even as the blog post goes live 4G competition is expanding. New entrant MyTel took its LTE service live in late March, and Amara Communications is set to become the 5th 4G provider. Our metrics show, however, that MyTel and Amara clearly have a high bar to meet if they plan to match the three established 4G players megabit for megabit and signal for signal.

According to our results, MPT, Ooredoo and Telenor all averaged 4G download speeds greater than 28 Mbps, which is more than 11 Mbps faster than the global average we measured in our latest State of LTE report. All three operators were also able to provide a 4G connection to our users more than 68% of the time — very high scores for 2-year-old LTE networks. For the time being, all three operators seem fairly evenly matched in our 4G metrics, though we did find some standouts in a few categories. Telenor won our 4G latency award, while MPT took the prize for 4G upload speed.

To read our full analysis, visit the Myanmar report page. And if you’re a smartphone user in Myanmar (or anywhere else, for that matter) we encourage you to join our testing community by download OpenSignal’s Android or iOS app.

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Which European Tech Hub offers the Fastest 4G?

If your tech startup needs excellent 4G connectivity around the clock, it’s probably best you set up base in Amsterdam, Stockholm, Zurich, or Tallinn. Yes, Tallinn: the city that nurtured Skype and Transferwise, came out as one of the top cities in our measurements if you’re looking for excellent LTE availability and fast speeds. Today, OpenSignal takes a peek at how Europe’s 13 most bustling tech hubs fare in the LTE race.

Speed or availability: tech hubs need both

The past decade has seen tech hubs springing up like mushrooms across the world, be it in the U.S., Asia or Europe. But becoming a tech hub doesn’t come easy. Cities need to attract top talent, foster an open and welcoming culture, and most importantly, they need to draw in capital. Bringing together groundbreaking ideas and the people who can make them happen requires excellent connectivity. Whether it’s city-wide WiFi or reliable, fast 4G, we believe digital connectivity for tech hubs is so much more than just a vanity metric.

For the current analysis we’ve gathered data over a 90 day period starting 1 December 2017 through February 2018. Let’s start with LTE download speeds. Just as we saw in our recent blog post on the state of LTE in Europe, the Netherlands came out first in our current analysis as well, with Amsterdam being the only city on our list to crack the 40 Mbps 4G speed milestone. That’s over twice as fast as the global average of 16.9 Mbps that we recorded in our latest report analysing LTE availability and speeds in 88 countries. The Dutch hub was followed by Stockholm and Zurich, with both cities offering average LTE speeds above 37 Mbps.

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Posted in LTE, Mobile Trends | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Time spent on Wifi in the US falls as users move to unlimited plans

Over the past year or so, unlimited data has really taken off in the U.S., with all four of the big players launching competitive plans to try to get a bigger piece of the market. But just because consumers are eating up more data via cellular, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped using Wifi – although we’re seeing signs they’re moderating their usage. It’s been a year since our first look at the time U.S. consumers spent connected to Wifi, versus using data via their cellular networks. So are America’s mobile users lingering less on Wifi, and if so, why?

Not surprisingly, our data, which covers the 90 days from December 1, 2017, shows that time on Wifi has fallen across three out of the four major operators. But more notable is the fact that the “big two” AT&T and Verizon saw the greatest drop in our measurements. As unlimited data plans in the U.S. become more ubiquitous, customers appear less concerned about finding a ‘free’ Wifi connection, leaning more on their ‘unlimited’ 3G and 4G networks for connectivity.

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Posted in Networks, Other, Wifi | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

LTE availability in India soars as impressive rollout of 4G continues

The remarkable spread of 4G across India continues. Our latest State of Mobile Networks report found LTE availability has increased for every major operator over the last six months, with all of them crossing the 65% milestone, while Jio managed an incredible 96%.

This level of 4G reach is astonishing for an emerging market such as India. In the six years since the launch of commercial LTE services in India in April 2012, the telecoms sector has developed at lightning speed, fuelled by fierce competition and heavy investment in 4G rollout.

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The mobile video experience in Mexico is good one – as long as you have a 4G connection

Imagine this: You’re watching the final game of the Apertura between Chivas and Club América on your smartphone, and just as América’s star striker receives the ball in front of goal — with no one but the goalkeeper in between — the video suddenly stops. After a few seconds, the video resumes play, but all you see is a bunch of players celebrating the goal you never saw. A lot of mobile users in Mexico probably don’t have to imagine this kind of situation as it’s already happened to them when watching a sporting event, streaming a TV show or surfing YouTube. Luckily, though, those situations are becoming rarer in Mexico.

As more and more Mexican consumers get access to faster 4G connections, they’re getting much higher quality video streams, according to OpenSignal data. We found that the mobile video experience on Mexico’s three major service providers was quite good if users were connected to 4G networks.

For this analysis, we availed ourselves of a new OpenSignal developmental metric called mobile video experience, which uses real-world tests to measure the loading time of video, the proportion of time a video stream stops during playback and overall image quality. Using methodologies vetted by the telecom industry, we aggregated those measurements to calculate a video experience score from 0 to 100, with 100 being a theoretical limit indicating a perfect video session, and 0 indicating an unwatchable streaming session. (For more information on how we test video experience check out our detailed metric description.)

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