What your smartphone can expect at the Olympics

Photo courtesy of Agencia Brasil

Photo courtesy of Agencia Brasil

Today OpenSignal released its latest State of Mobile Networks report for Brazil, just in time for the Olympics. If you’re planning on making the trek south of the equator for the spectacle of the Olympiad, chances are you’ll have your smartphone in tow – as will millions of other Olympic attendees, organizers, athletes and ordinary Rio residents. Hopefully we can offer a little insight into what kind of mobile data performance to expect.

First off, let’s look at speed. Vivo took OpenSignal’s award for fastest 4G network with an average download speed of 18.6 Mbps, an impressive speed for South America and well above the 13.5 Mbps global average from our most recent State of LTE report. Fellow operators Claro, Oi and TIM, however, fell short of that average. We measured speeds below 12 Mbps for all three of them.

In terms of 4G availability, all four major operators could use some improvement. Rather than measure geographic coverage, our availability metric tracks the proportion of time subscribers have access to a particularly network. In Brazil, 4G subscribers could connect to an LTE signal only about half the time. When LTE wasn’t available, those subscribers had to contend with 3G network speeds, which ranged between 1.1 Mbps to 2.4 Mbps.

The good news is that 4G signals were much more readily available in Rio de Janeiro, where the games will be hosted. Nextel (which offers 4G services in Rio but not nationwide) tied with Vivo for our 4G availability award. Their customers were able to connect to LTE around 75% of the time. We measured much better 4G consistency for Claro and TIM in Rio as well. Both had 4G availability scores 10% higher than their nationwide averages.

Of course, these numbers represent the typical performance of Brazil’s networks as experienced by the typical consumer. The Olympics are far from a typical event. While we definitely see evidence that Brazilian operators have improved their mobile data networks since the FIFA World Cup in 2014, an event the size of the Olympics would place a major strain on any operator’s network, no matter how well prepared they are. And though Brazil’s operators fared through the World Cup quite well, that event was spread out over many cities with matches staggered over a month. The Olympics is two and half weeks of continuous events focused in a single city. Brazil’s operators have their work cut out for them.

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