OpenSignal news

Peru’s Bitel makes its debut in our data

OpenSignal has returned to Peru. When we first looked at the Andean country in June of 2016, we examined 4G speed, availability and latency for Peru’s top 3 operators, but we’re pleased to say we’ve expanded our coverage in the State of Mobile Networks: Peru report published today. Not only are we looking at the 3G and overall speeds in this edition, we’ve also included a fourth operator. Bitel launched its first 4G service in late 2016, and it’s already making quite the impact in the market. Entel, however, is still clearly the operator beat, having won a share of all six of our categories. Be sure to check out the full analysis and charts on the report page.

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Analyzing the impact of unlimited data in the US

Last week OpenSignal unveiled a new experimental metric called average peak speed, which is designed to gauge a network’s full data connection capabilities under optimal conditions. We kicked off our analysis of peak speed with a look at India’s four nationwide LTE operators, but in conjunction with OpenSignal’s State of Mobile Networks: USA report, released today, we’re applying our peak speed metric to the U.S. big four. We think that peak speed can provide some additional insight into what’s happening at the moment in the U.S. with the resurgence of unlimited data plans.

Before jumping into the analysis, I should explain how we define peak speeds and how we calculate the metric. While our 4G speed metric measures our user’s typical everyday experience, peak speed measures an operator’s 4G connections at their best — when devices are able to access the full capacity of the network unfettered by congestion or other technical limitations. You can think of average speed as the everyday experience of driving a car in traffic, while peak speeds are what your car can achieve when the highway is empty and you’re free to lay on the gas pedal.

We calculate average peak speed by examining data only from devices that have conducted multiple automated speed tests in a three-month test period. We extract the fastest speed test from those devices and then toss out the bottom 95% of the results, leaving us with only the top 5% of the fastest speeds we’ve collected from our crowdsourced community. The average of that top 5% is our average peak speed metric. This metric isn’t measuring the theoretical peak speed of a network as those speeds are quite simply unattainable. Nor are we claiming this measurement is the topmost speed a device would ever experience on a particular operator’s network. But we feel average peak speed is an accurate measure of what consumers might really experience when the network — to continue the car analogy — is firing on all cylinders.

We ran average peak speed for the April-June timeframe, which is the same test period we used for our U.S. report. You can see the results below:

The first thing that sticks out in this chart is that Verizon and T-Mobile are locked into a tie for peak speed at 104 Mbps. What that tells us is that Verizon and T-Mobile’s are evenly matched when it comes to capacity and both are able to support extremely fast connections when conditions are optimal. That isn’t a surprise. For the last two years we’ve seen Verizon and T-Mobile engaged in a heated battle for fastest 4G speed in our measurements. But in the current U.S. report we saw a marked change. Our 4G speed results for Verizon dropped by 2 Mbps, allowing T-Mobile to leap ahead of Big Red in our rankings. What happened? Unlimited plans happened. Continue reading

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Introducing OpenSignal’s new peak speed metric

Every few years, operators announce some big new network or network enhancement that promises to blow the doors off whatever our current mobile data speeds happen to be at the time. We see press releases proclaiming 300 Mbps, 600 Mbps, even 800 Mbps connections. But when these promised super networks finally arrive, the speeds that filter down to our smartphones and tablets are much slower. How does a 300 Mbps network suddenly produce a 25 Mbps connection?

That’s the tricky thing about cellular technologies. Mobile capacity is by definition shared capacity. Even if a mobile technology is theoretically capable of supporting speeds of 300 Mbps, that capacity has to be shared by every other user connected to a particular tower or cell in the network, so those 300 megabits get divided up among multiple devices. Even in the rare instance a single device is connected to a tower, it can’t access a network’s full theoretical speed due to any number of technical factors ranging from interference to distance — physics simply doesn’t cooperate. Finally, the performance of the wireless connection isn’t the only thing determining the speed of a mobile data link. All of the other components in between your phone’s processor and the server where your content resides plays a role in determining your internet connection speed.

Maybe you’ll never hit the advertised top speed your operator brags about, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be times where you’ll stumble onto an incredibly fast connection. Those connections are typically many times faster than the average speeds we measure on operators’ networks and give us a better indication of what the true technological capabilities of those networks are. At OpenSignal we’ve been experimenting with a new metric designed to measure speed when the network is performing at optimally. We call it average peak speed, and to kick things off we’ve calculated those optimal speeds for the four major LTE providers in India. You can see how they stock up in the chart below:

Continue reading

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OpenSignal’s first look at Colombia

Today OpenSignal kicked off coverage of a new South American country, Colombia, tracking the 3G and 4G performance of that country’s three major operators: Claro, Movistar and Tigo. What we found was a very close race in nearly all of our availability and speed metrics.Colombia 4G availabilityClaro and Movistar shared OpenSignal’s 4G speed award, both averaging download connections around 20 Mbps, and in 3G speed we recorded a three-way tie between the major operators. In 4G availability, which tracks the proportion of time consumers have access to an LTE signal, the race was one of the tightest we’ve seen. Less than a tenth of percentage point separated our measurements for Movistar and Tigo, though as both operators scored below 63% in availability neither one can claim to have particularly good 4G reach. The only metrics in which we found clear winners were overall speed, which Movistar led with an average download of 9.8 Mbps, and latency, where Tigo won both our 3G and 4G response time awards.

We’re starting to add more and more countries to our reports rolls. Last week we expanded our analysis to Iberia with our first State of Mobile Networks: Spain report, but we have plans for many more new markets beyond Spain and Colombia, so stay tuned.

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Taiwan flexes its 4G muscle

OpenSignal is expanding its coverage in Asia to one of the most dynamic mobile data markets in the region. In our first State of Mobile Networks: Taiwan report, we looked at the consumer 3G and 4G experience on five operators. While we found all of Taiwan’s major 4G providers were able to supply a consistent LTE connection, a single operator stood out in speed.

Taiwan's iconic skyscraper Taipei 101 (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Eduardo M. C.)

Taiwan’s iconic skyscraper Taipei 101 (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Eduardo M. C.)

FarEasTone isn’t fooling around when it comes to offering high-bandwidth connections. We measured its average LTE download connection at 41.7 Mbps, placing it among the small fraternity of global operators that maintain 4G speeds consistently above 40 Mbps. FarEasTone also took OpenSignal’s 3G speed and overall speed awards, showing its customers were able to get impressive mobile data performance no matter what network they connected to.

In 4G availability, FarEasTone also performed admirably, but so did all of its competitors. Our testers on Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Taiwan Star Telecom were all able to access an LTE signal more than 80% of the time. Meanwhile customers on GT could tap into LTE 90% of the time, which tied it with FarEasTone for OpenSignal’s 4G availability award.

Check out our full Taiwan analysis, available in both English and traditional Chinese. And if you’re a 4G smart device user in Taiwan that wants to join our crowdsourced testing community, be sure to download the OpenSignal app for Android and iOS or our new Meteor app for Android.

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Tracking the Jio effect

Today OpenSignal released its latest State of LTE report, comparing 4G speeds and 4G availability in 75 countries around the globe. While we see some interesting overall LTE trends, there is one country that stood out in our data. India shot up our 4G availability charts since we published our November State of LTE report, claiming a spot among the top 20 countries in the world.

Something happened in India that made LTE signals much more widely available to the mobile-data consuming populace, and we have a good idea of what that something was: Reliance Jio’s commercial debut. The operator launched its nationwide LTE network in September 2016, and in the ensuing months Jio has been on a rampage, signing up 100 million subscribers drawn in by its inexpensive and virtually unlimited 4G data plans. Jio’s launch did more than just create more 4G subscribers, it boosted India’s overall 4G availability from 72% to 82% in the six months between our State of LTE reports.

Jio isn’t the only 4G operator in India, of course, but OpenSignal’s recently published India report clearly shows a big gap between it and India’s other national 4G providers when it comes to providing a consistent LTE signal. OpenSignal’s crowdsourced users were able to find an LTE signal on Airtel, Idea and Vodafone 60% of the time or less. Meanwhile our testers were able to connect to Jio’s 4G network more than 90% of the time. That number may seem quite high, but it relates to Jio’s unique situation as a 4G-only operator in India. It’s deployed its LTE infrastructure as an umbrella network, not as an overlay, as it has no 2G or 3G services to fall back on.

But it’s not just Jio’s new network that’s boosting India’s overall 4G availability score. Jio’s enormous subscriber growth — much of it at the expense of its competitors — is amplifying Jio’s impact. Not only does Jio have exceptionally accessible 4G networks, according to our measurements, but Jio’s fast growing share of the Indian 4G market means its customers are having an increasingly bigger say in determining India’s overall results. In India we have one of those rare instances where a single operator is having a dramatic effect on the mobile market in a short space of time.

There is a downside to Jio’s enormously fast ramp up, however. Jio’s emergence has not only caused overall LTE availability in India to rise, but overall 4G speeds to fall. India now sits one above last place in our 75-nation 4G speed analysis, averaging LTE download speeds of 5.2 Mbps, which is well short of the global average of 16.4 Mbps and only marginally better than the global average 3G connection of 4.4 Mbps. In our India report we measured the slowest LTE speeds on Jio’s LTE network, which is likely due to the enormous strain its success is placing on its network. Anytime you add 100 million users to a network and grant them unfettered access to data, speeds are bound to suffer.

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The sun shines on Sunrise’s 4G performance

Having just wrapped up the latest installment of OpenSignal’s Italy report, why not hop over the border to take a look at Italy’s northern neighbor? OpenSignal is pleased to announce the latest country to join our coverage list: Switzerland. Examining millions of datapoints, we compared the mobile experience seen by OpenSignal users across the Swiss Confederation.

In general, Salt, Sunrise Communications and Swisscom all performed well in our tests. Our measurements showed fast speeds, a high level of LTE accessibility and very good network response rates from all three operators. Based on our tests, few Swiss subscribers are suffering from low-quality mobile data connections.

Sunrise, however, did stand out in a few categories. It excelled in 4G speed, averaging download connections of 35.3 Mbps in our tests – results that are more than double the global 4G average of 17.4 Mbps and more than 12 Mbps faster than those of its two rivals. Those 4G scores propelled Sunrise to the top of our rankings for overall speed, which measures the typical download speed experienced by our users across an operator’s mobile data networks.

Swisscom took home plenty of awards as well. It tied with Sunrise for 4G availability, which tracks the proportion of time users have access to an LTE signal. And it grabbed both of OpenSignal’s prizes for latency, indicating highly responsive networks.

The full results in our State of Mobile Networks: Switzerland report. And if you’re a Swiss smartphone user who wants to test your operator’s network yourself as well as contribute data to our future reports, we encourage you to download the OpenSignal app (available on iOSand Android) or our new Meteor app.

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Vodafone and TIM keep their 4G lead over the new Wind Tre

Wind and 3’s merger may have created the largest operator in Italy on paper, but it’s clear the new Wind Tre has some work to do before its network catches up. In our third State of Mobile Networks: Italy report, we took a final look at the speeds and signal availability of Wind and 3’s mobile networks before they’re merged under a single Wind Tre umbrella. While we did see some improvements in both Wind and 3’s performance, they’re both still well behind Vodafone and Telecom Italia Mobile in nearly every metric we cover.

The biggest standout in this report was Vodafone, which won the majority of OpenSignal’s awards in speed and availability. Vodafone’s 4G speeds were particularly noteworthy as it averaged LTE downloads of nearly 40 Mbps nationally and even exceeded 50 Mbps in Milan. Meanwhile TIM distinguished itself in our latency tests, an indication of highly responsive mobile data networks.

In availability, though, all four operators had favorable news. We saw LTE availability jump across the board, meaning our users were able to connect to a 4G signal much more often across Italy. Our testers were able to find an LTE connection on Vodafone and TIM’s networks more than 70% of the time. Though Wind and TIM also saw improvements in their availability scores, they have a long way to go before they close the gap with their competitors. OpenSignal users only had access to Wind and 3’s 4G connections half the time.

It will be interesting to see how these rankings change in the next year as Wind and 3 become a single operator not just in name, but also in network capabilities. By merging their spectrum holdings and combining their 3G and 4G footprints, they’ll likely be able to offer Wind Tre customers much faster speeds as well as greater network reach. Whether they can close in on Vodafone and TIM’s sizable lead, though, remains to be seen.

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UK: How fast and how accessible is 4G in your city?

If you had one guess what the fastest 4G city in the U.K. might be, would that guess be Stoke-on-Trent? That’s right, Stoke is more than just the heart of England’s pottery industry. According to OpenSignal’s measurements, Stoke also lays claims to the fastest 4G speeds of any big city in Great Britain.

Following up on our State of Mobile Networks: UK report, OpenSignal and consumer advocate Which? decided to take a closer look at how the top 20 urban areas in Great Britain fared in 4G speed and 4G availability between Dec. 1 and Feb. 28. You’ll find both charts below, though some of the numbers may surprise you. Instead of major metropoles like London, Manchester and Birmingham dominating the rankings, we see many of the lesser-known lights of urban England at the top of our lists.

 

The aforementioned Stoke led our 4G speed rankings, averaging LTE download speeds of 26.4 Mbps in our measurements. That’s nearly 2 Mbps faster than the next fastest city Coventry and 3.5 Mbps faster than the average 4G download speed for all of Great Britain. Only half of the 20 cities we examined wound up above that national speed average of 22.9 Mbps. Most notably London was below it with average LTE connections of 20.5 Mbps. Last place, however, went to Brighton and Hove.

 

Middlesbrough topped our 4G availability rankings. Our smartphone users there were able to latch onto an LTE connection 82.7% of the time, an impressive number considering the average 4G availability across England, Scotland and Wales was just 65.1%. In fact, all 20 cities exceeded that mark. The city with the least accessible 4G service was Bournemouth, with an LTE availability score of 67.5%. But overall 4G signals are far more consistently available in the cities than in the countryside as you would expect.

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The Meteoric rise of a down-to-earth app

Why another speed test?

Among other features, our flagship app OpenSignal tests the speed of your internet connection. So why create another app to do that? Well, we don’t really see Meteor just as a beautiful speed test (though we agree it is!). When we came up with the concept for Meteor, what we had in mind were the connection needs of internet users who don’t necessarily know their megabits from their megabytes, but want to understand how much (or how little) they can do with their current speed. And this is where the idea of looking at the way specific apps will work at a given speed came into play.

From testing speed to grading apps

A series of user interviews confirmed our hypothesis: there was definitely interest for an app that would go beyond testing speed, to measuring what it was good for. How did those megabits and milliseconds translate in terms of video streaming, web browsing or gaming? What was the impact of download speed, upload speed and latency in the way apps worked? How Meteor addresses these questions — by grading your speed results and the apps’ performance you can expect from them —  is the outcome of several rounds of interviews, design iterations, copy writing and beta testing.

Some out-of-this-world results

The impact of Meteor has by far exceeded our expectations. Covered by press outlets all over the world — from Chile to China, from India to Italy —, it’s been hailed as “the prettiest internet speed test app” and “a decent alternative to Speedtest.net”. The feedback we’re getting from users is even more exhilarating: “amazing and passionately crafted”, “works flawlessly”, “a lot more accurate than all the other testing apps”, “extremely informative and thorough. I wish I could give it more stars”. If you are of the opinion that numbers speak louder than words, we can offer you a few of those too!

Meteor in numbers (4)

Meteor’s first two months in numbers

An updated Meteor touches down!

We still have a lot planned for Meteor in the upcoming months and as a matter of fact, the latest release is hitting the app store as I write this, with some rather cool new features in tow. What’s new in Meteor 1.02, I hear you ask?

  • New apps to choose from, based on our users’ feedback, including Netflix, Snapchat and Twitch.
  • New awesome way of selecting apps you want to test for
  • Added Kbps units, by popular demand
  • Better performance in History tab
  • Sharing options for your beautiful speed test results
  • Additional settings for increased control of the app
  • Neater display of app performance details
  • Other UI improvements (we’re keeping our designer as busy as ever!)
  • Last but not least…drumroll…Grade Your App Experience — a novel feature to contribute your personal app gradings to Meteor. Because we believe there’s no better judge than you of the quality of experience you’re getting from your internet connection!
New features Meteor

Some of Meteor’s new features

What’s on the horizon…

This is the story of Meteor so far — an upward trajectory that wouldn’t have been possible without the feedback and support from our users, beta-testers and interviewees. And it’s only the beginning, with some exciting developments yet to come. The Grade Your App Experience feature will bring valuable Quality of Experience feedback; we’ll use it to train Meteor’s model to make its apps’ gradings more and more accurate. An iOS version of Meteor is also cooking — get notified when it’s ready to be sure not to miss it, the sign up form is below! And watch this space for more…

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