OpenSignal Blog

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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Beta program


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UK’s 4G signal reach jumps upwards

In our last few U.K. reports we reported what a lot of smartphone users already knew: 4G signals in the U.K. were hard to come by. But that’s a refrain we aren’t repeating in our latest State of Mobile Networks: UK report.

In six months U.K. operators have taken some big strides in improving their LTE availability scores, which is a measure of the proportion of time smartphone subscribers have access to a 4G signal. All four operators saw a 5% or better jump in this metric, and for the first time we see an operator with a 4G availability score higher than 70%. That operator is EE, but Vodafone and O2 are close on its heels. Our testers were able to find an LTE signal on their respective networks 69% and 68% of the time. Even 3 saw a big 6% jump in availability between this report and the last, but it’s still far behind the other operators in our rankings.

The U.K. still doesn’t have the extensive 4G reach we see in many countries in Northern Europe, East Asia and North America, but if it keeps improving at this pace, it could very well catch up soon.

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OpenSignal begins full coverage of India

Over the last year, OpenSignal has published a few blog posts on some of our more interesting findings in the Indian mobile scene, but our plan has always been to do a more thorough analysis of one of the largest and most complex telecom markets in the world. Well, today we’ve accomplished that goal. We’re proud to debut our State of Mobile Networks: India report, the first of what will be many detailed looks at the mobile data experience in the subcontinent.

India proved to be a very challenging market to analyze because it’s so fractured. Nearly a dozen operators offer service in India, but not all of them compete head to head in every region. India is divided into 22 telecom circles, and each operator runs networks in a different set of circles. Normally that would make any national comparison between operators impossible, but in recent years a handful of operators have emerged as national players in either 3G or 4G services, and it’s those operators on which OpenSignal has focused its national analysis. We didn’t stop at a national comparison though. We selected four significant telecom circles and conducted a regional LTE analysis of each one. You can read our detailed analysis and see our interactive charts in the full report here.

Our report debuts at a rather controversial time for the Indian telecom sector. The launch of Reliance Jio and its inexpensive and virtually unlimited data plans have set off a new wave of competition and a war of words among India’s top operators. Reports such as this one are therefore drawing a lot of attention and generating a lot of arguments. As our report goes live, we felt we needed to be transparent about our methodology and to explain how we’ve used it to measure the mobile experience of smartphone users in countries across the world.

First, OpenSignal uses crowdsourcing to collect data. Users download our app, which allows them to perform speed and signal tests from their smartphones both actively and in the background. All of that data is sent to OpenSignal stripped of any personal information (we protect our users’ anonymity) where it’s collected in our databases and used as the jumping off point for our reports and detailed online and in-app coverage maps. For this report alone we gathered more than 1.3 billion measurements collected by 93,464 smartphone users across India.

In short, we have access to a lot of data. But collecting a huge volume of data isn’t everything. Painting an accurate picture of the mobile data experience in a country also depends on how you interpret that data. OpenSignal has adopted a methodology for collecting and analyzing data that provides a holistic look at mobile data services and best represents what the typical consumer sees on a day-to-day basis.

One example of this approach is how we aggregate our speed test results. In India, there is a small subset of users that conduct a massive volume of speed tests (thousands a month compared to a handful for the typical user). Those tests are often run when the network is at optimal performance. If our methodology were to count each speed test equally, we would have a small handful of users skewing our results, often in favor of a particular operator. OpenSignal’s methodology avoids that issue by averaging the speed tests of each user, and then counting each average equally. That ultimately fits well with our philosophy. We want to examine the experience of all subscribers on a particular operator, not the experience of a few very active testers.

Another example is how we treat dual-SIM data, which is especially important in India where many people subscribe to more than one operator’s service. The problem here is assigning the proper test to the proper operator, since the same phone is connecting to different services. It’s a problem that OpenSignal has solved through the careful parsing of our data. We’re able to identify the individual network our users connect to whenever conducting a test and then assign that measurement to the correct operator.

If you want to read more about how we collect and analyze our data, we encourage you to read the methodology section of our website. And be sure and let us know your thoughts on our India report in the comments section below.

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Whose customers are using Wifi the most in the US?

Though we may be in the era of fast 4G connections, Wifi still plays a significant role in our mobile connectivity. We spend a lot of time connected to Wifi networks at home, work and at public hotspots. But just how much time exactly do we spend on Wifi? I decided to find out by digging down into OpenSignal’s U.S. data.

I looked at our connection data for the four U.S. national operators in the first quarter of 2017 and found that our smartphone users spent roughly half of their time connected to Wifi versus cellular networks. But there were some differences between the subscribers of the different operators, as you can see in the chart below.

Verizon subscribers spent the highest percentage time connected to Wifi at 54%, followed by AT&T (52%) and Sprint (51%), but the big standout in our data was T-Mobile. Our users were only connected to Wifi 43% of the time, indicating that the typical T-Mobile subscriber was spending far more time connected to his or her operator’s cellular networks than a typical subscriber on the other three operators.

So how do we interpret this data? It’s tempting to view these Wifi patterns through the lens of the operators’ data plans. T-Mobile and Sprint have been selling unlimited data plans for some time now, while AT&T and Verizon only recently reintroduced unlimited as an option for new subscribers. Customers that don’t have to worry about data overage charges have less incentive to seek out free or cheap Wifi connections. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the two operators with lowest time-on-Wifi scores are the ones with customer most accustomed to not counting the megabytes they consume. But that’s also a rather simplistic explanation. There are lots of reasons why one operator’s customers could be finding Wifi signals more than others.

Some operators, for instance AT&T, have built carrier Wifi networks, automatically connecting customers to hotspots whenever they’re in range. The type of customers each operator caters to could also have a big impact. Business professionals, for example, often log into workplace networks as soon as they clear their office lobbies. They’re also more likely to pay for access to dedicated Wifi access at hotels, airports and convention centers.

I should note that time spent on Wifi is not the same thing as the amount of data consumed on Wifi. Just because your phone happens to be connected to a Wifi router doesn’t mean it’s actively surfing the mobile internet. That’s one of the main reasons that Wifi connections make up such a large share of all smartphone connections. Our smartphones spend a lot of time at home and in the office passively connected to our local networks. But that passive connectivity can tell us some interesting things as well. If an operator’s customers skew young, their time on Wifi numbers will skew low. Younger folks tend to go out more, leaving the familiar embrace of their home networks. Old fogies like me, on the other hand, barely leave the house. I’m willing to bet my time on Wifi score is in the 80% range.

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OpenSignal’s forthcoming “State of Mobile Networks: India” report and recent references to OpenSignal data

OpenSignal will soon publish its inaugural “State of Mobile Networks: India” report which will provide the most definitive analysis of mobile experience OpenSignal has ever carried out. In this report, we’ll compare the typical speeds, latencies and 4G availability on each of the major operators’ networks based on billions of data points collected from users of the OpenSignal mobile app. This report will be based on our most recently available data and contain both a nationwide and regional analysis of the mobile experience recorded in India.

We note that there have been recent articles indicating that OpenSignal has taken a formal position on the Indian telecoms market and we would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this is not the case. To date, we have published an analysis of LTE speed and availability in a set of India’s largest cities but this does not include an analysis of individual operators. In addition, the OpenSignal mobile app contains some average statistics on measurements in India, but these are localized, indicative results sampled over a longer period of time of 9 months and therefore cannot be considered a definitive, nationwide analysis representing the most current state of affairs. This will only come through OpenSignal’s forthcoming “State of Mobile Networks: India” report.

The Indian telecoms market is in a highly dynamic state with competing reports on how the different service providers offerings stack up so the timing is perfectly poised for OpenSignal to release its first report. In the meantime we advise the public to avoid any misleading reports and stay tuned to official OpenSignal channels to be notified when our report is released.

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LTE spreads its wings in Mexico

It’s been a busy six months for Mexico’s mobile operators. Since we published our last State of Mobile Networks report in October, AT&T Mexico, Movistar and Telcel have all been expanding the reach of their LTE networks, and not by insignificant amounts. In our new report, we saw a 4% increase in LTE availability across the board, meaning Mexico’s 4G users now have more access to LTE signals than ever before.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Blok 70

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Blok 70

Though we saw improvements from all three operators in our data, some improved more than others. Notably AT&T’s LTE availability score rose to 71.5%, indicating our smartphone testers were able to connect to its 4G service in seven out of every 10 attempts. That’s the first time we’ve tracked an operator breaching the 70% threshold in Mexico. Meanwhile, Telcel is but a mere network tweak from reaching that same benchmark. Our users were able to latch onto its LTE signals 69.4% of the time.

4G availability wasn’t the only metric for which we saw boosted scores. Our users measured faster LTE speeds on both Telcel and AT&T’s networks than they did six months ago. Telcel landed our 4G speed award with an average download connection of 24.8 Mbps, but AT&T secured our overall speed prize thanks to better scores in both the 3G speed and 4G availability categories.

Be sure to check out our report page for the full results.

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India’s fastest LTE connections are in Mumbai

OpenSignal is preparing its first public report for India, but while we crunch our numbers, I thought we’d share a sneak peak at what we’re finding in one of the world’s most fascinating mobile markets. We compiled our LTE speed and availability tests in India’s biggest cities over the previous three months to see how 4G performance compared in different urban regions of the country.

First let’s take a look at speed.

Fast speeds are fitting for the fast pace of India’s financial, commercial and entertainment capital, and true to form, Mumbai came out on top of our speed rankings. Our smartphone users in Mumbai averaged LTE download speeds of 6.9 Mbps. Kolkata was the other city in our sample to average LTE speeds greater than 6 Mbps. Meanwhile the seat of government Delhi didn’t fare quite as well, averaging 4.6 Mbps. Gujarati metropolis Ahmedabad ranked lowest with a speed score of 3.9 Mbps.

Gujarat’s major cities may not have shone in our speed tests, but they performed admirably in our 4G availability measurements. OpenSignal’s availability metric measures the proportion of time our crowdsourced users can access a particular network, and in the case of India, our testers in Ahmedabad an Surat were able to latch onto an LTE signal 85% of the time. Impressively nine of the ten cities we studied landed above 75% in our LTE availability scores. The only city to miss the mark was Pune.

In general, Indian operators appear to be doing an excellent job making LTE consistently accessible in the big cities. Last month, I blogged about our most recent data in top European cities, and as you can see for yourself India’s metros compare quite favorable to the urban hubs of Europe in our 4G availability scores. In our measured speeds, though, India’s LTE services are still lacking. According to OpenSignal’s State of LTE report, the typical LTE download speed globally is 17.4 Mbps, and we’re starting to see many countries push their average speeds well beyond 30 Mbps. In India’s cities, the signals are there, but they’re still underpowered.

We’ll continue to publish more data from India as we gear up for first public report, so check back for further updates. In the meantime, if you’re an a smartphone user in India and want to help us measure the consumer mobile data experience, we encourage you to join our crowdsourced testing community by downloading the OpenSignal app or our new Meteor app.

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OpenSignal turns its mobile spotlight on the Philippines

We’re pleased to add a new Asian country to our list of mobile reports. Today we published our first State of Mobile Networks report for the Philippines, which is rather unique among countries for having only two major operators competing for mobile subscribers. There may be just two operators, but that doesn’t mean there’s no competition over service quality. In fact, we found Globe and Smart nearly split our performance awards down the middle.

In our 4G tests, Smart came out on top in our LTE speed rankings, while Globe was the winner of our LTE availability award. However, LTE’s overall impact in the Philippines is still limited as our users were only able to latch onto a 4G signal half of the time. Needless to say, 3G is still a technology of vital importance, and in our 3G speed tests we found the two operators in a dead heat, both averaging downloads just over 2 Mbps. Smart and Globe were also tied in our overall speed rankings — which factor in the combined 3G and 4G experience – with average connections of around 3.3 Mbps.

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The best performing 4G cities in Europe

Next week, Barcelona hosts the biggest wireless networking show in the world, Mobile World Congress, so we thought it would be an apt time to focus on some of the more interesting 4G trends in Europe. This week, OpenSignal released its Global State of Mobile Networks report, which details mobile data speeds in countries around the world, but today we thought we’d drill down to the city level, looking at the fastest and most accessible LTE infrastructures in the European Union.

Our first chart looks at average 4G availability in 30 of the top urban areas in the EU. Rather than measure geographic coverage, our availability metric tracks the proportion of time our users can connect to a particular network. That makes it a particularly useful metric for metro areas, as geographic reach is no guarantee you’ll be able to latch onto a 4G network in crowded urban canyons of our modern cities. Our second chart tracks the average LTE download speed our users experienced when they were able to establish those 4G connections. All of our data was collected between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31 by hundreds of thousands of OpenSignal smartphone users in Europe.

Budapest and Rotterdam are the obvious standouts in our measurements. They held the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in both our  availability and speed rankings respectively. Our testers were not only able to connect to an LTE signal in nearly nine out of ten attempts in those two cities, but once connected they also experienced some of the fastest 4G speeds in the world. Budapest and Rotterdam were the only cities in our analysis with an average download of more than 40 Mbps. Other cities to note are Stockholm and Amsterdam, which scored highly in both of our metrics.

MWC host city Barcelona didn’t do too shabbily either. While roughly in the middle of the table in speed, the Catalan capital rated high in availability. Spain’s operators supplied an LTE signal to our Barcelona testers more than 78% of the time. And though Barcelona’s speeds may have only been average compared to the big EU markets, its score of 29.1 Mbps is nothing to scoff at. In fact, big European cities generally delivered fast speeds across the board. All 30 of the markets we looked at were well above the global 4G download average of 17.4 Mbps as measured in our recent State of LTE report.

Fast networks don’t equate highly available networks though. In ten of the 30 metro areas, our users weren’t able to maintain consistent LTE connections more than 70% of the time, and one market — the Ruhr urban conglomeration surrounding Essen and Dortmund — had a 4G availability of just 55% in our tests. German cities overall fared the poorest in our results. While Spanish, U.K. and Italian cities generally performed well in either the speed or availability category but not the other, German cities routinely fell to the bottom of the table in both metrics.

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Looking at 3G and 4G speed together

Our 2nd Global State of Mobile Report published today, tracking overall mobile data network performance we measured in more than 80 countries. Unlike our LTE report, which looks solely at 4G performance, this analysis examines the combined speed of 3G and 4G networks, which gives a more rounded picture of they typical mobile data experience. We found the fastest networks in the world remain in East Asia and Northern Europe, but we see speeds steadily increasing across the globe. Now 13 countries average overall speeds of 20 Mbps or more. You can find the full analysis on our reports page.

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