Brazil updates its 4G networks for the Olympics

Brazil’s 4G networks soon will get their second trial by fire in two years. Just as the country recovers from the global spectacle of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, Rio de Janeiro is playing host to 2016 Olympics this summer. That kind of event brings in hundreds of thousands of spectators, athletes, organizers and media – all itching to stream, surf and post to social media on their mobile devices.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brian Godfrey

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brian Godfrey

The good news is that Brazil, and particularly host city Rio, seems better prepared to tackle that onslaught of 4G data traffic. In our State of Mobile Networks: Brazil report, released today, we found that both Brazil and Rio’s LTE coverage has increased since we last looked at the country’s 4G performance six months ago. Speeds have slowed down a bit, but that’s to be expected as the 4G market matures, and several Brazilian operators are still delivering quite a bit of punch through their LTE connections, particularly in Rio.

In the three months between Oct. 15 and Jan. 15, OpenSignal measured the fastest download speeds on Vivo networks, with an LTE average of 15.3 Mbps and a 3G average of 2.4 Mbps. Vivo was even faster in Rio. In the same three-month period, we measured Vivo’s 4G download average at 17.2 Mbps in the Olympic host city, but Vivo had competition. Our tests clocked Oi’s LTE network average at 16.8 Mbps in Rio, putting it in a statistical tie with Vivo. No nationwide 4G operator, however, was by any means slow. From October to January, all four delivered average LTE speeds greater than 10 Mbps.

Coverage was a different story though. Brazilian operators barely offered more than 50% 4G time coverage nationally in the timeframe of our report. That means that on average, 4G subscribers spent roughly half their time outside of the range of an LTE signal (for details on how we calculate time coverage see our methodology section). In Rio, though, coverage was far better. Vivo and Claro had 71% and 61% time coverage respectively, according to our most recent data. Though Nextel doesn’t have a nationwide LTE network, it does have a 4G service in Rio. That network delivered some impressive 4G time coverage numbers – we measured it at 75% – but its LTE download speeds were far more limited, averaging just 2.6 Mbps.

Brazilian operators still have six months to tweak their networks before the Olympic rush comes. While we’re unlikely to see speeds go up as we get closer to the opening ceremony, there’s a good chance we could see coverage and network availability improve even more – especially in Rio.

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