State of Mobile Networks: Brazil (August 2015)

Brazil's operators are getting little rest after last year's FIFA World Cup. The Rio de Janeiro Olympics are a year away, and in the intervening two years, Brazil's 4G services are taking shape. Using data gathered from more than 80,000 mobile subscribers, OpenSignal took a deeper look at the major Brazilian data networks and found some surprises.

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Claro wins the speed crown

América Móvil’s Claro outpaced its competitors in raw 4G bandwidth, delivering average speeds of 17.82 Mbps. No operator in Brazil, however, averaged less than 10 Mbps in download speeds.

4G coverage still lacking

None of Brazil’s Big four operators were able to maintain a 4G connection more than 50 percent of time, showing they have much more work to do before LTE becomes ubiquitous.

Network availability is outstanding

No matter what network they're connected to, Brazilian smartphone users experienced a complete lack of signal less than 3 percent of the time. Now if only Brazil can maintain that kind of service reliability during the Olympics.

3G data coverage is widespread

4G still may be ramping up in Brazil, but 3G data connectivity is fairly commonplace. In particular, Nextel, Vivo and Claro all supplied a 3G or better data signal in more than 80 percent of OpenSignal's tests.

Report Facts

Report Location Brazil
Data Sample Size 176,644,833
User Sample Size 82,568
Sample Period May 1st - Jul 31st 2015

Overall Network Comparison

Download Speed: 4GDownload Speed: 3GTime with No SignalCoverage: 4GCoverage: 3G/4G

Claro

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Nextel

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Oi

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TIM

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Vivo

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Our app continually runs tests to measure the real world experience users receive. Instead of relying on user-initiated or drive-test simulations, we are able to paint a holistic picture of network’s performance through our background tests and crowdsourcing techniques -- all the while protecting the privacy of our millions of active OpenSignal users. The app has been downloaded over 15 million times collecting billions of measurements.

Network Coverage Comparison

Time with No Signal

This metric shows the proportion of time users on each network have no signal coverage available to them.
Note: for this metric, a smaller number indicates the network has better coverage overall.

Coverage: 4G

This metric shows the proportion of time LTE subscribers on each network have 4G (LTE) coverage available to them.

Coverage: 3G/4G

This metric shows the proportion of time users on each network have 3G or 4G (LTE) coverage available to them.

Network Speed Comparison

Download Speed: 4G

This metric shows the average download speed on each network on 4G (LTE) connections.

Download Speed: 3G

This metric shows the average download speed on each network on 3G connections.

Analysis

The 2014 World Cup was a trial by fire for Brazil’s fledgling 4G networks, and there were plenty of complaints levied against the country’s operators about the quality and consistency of their service during the month long sporting extravaganza. Brazilian operators, however, are getting a second chance – and two more years to prepare – to prove the mettle of their mobile data networks in next year’s Rio Olympics.

As the 2016 Summer Olympics’ official sponsor, Claro has the most to gain or lose in this global showcase, but according to OpenSignal’s research it’s also the most prepared. The third largest operator won the highest ranks in four out of five categories, measuring LTE and 3G speeds and coverage (*) and overall network availability. But in almost every case, the country’s largest service provider, Telefónica’s Vivo, was on Claro’s heels.

Brazil’s main LTE rollout didn’t get underway until 2013, but its operators have considerable 4G progress in the intervening two years. LTE speeds well exceed the global average of 11.7 Mbps, and even in the short two-month time window of this study, we saw LTE performance noticeably improve on three of the top four operators’ networks. Of course, this is a trend we often see when new 4G networks come online. Right now Brazil’s LTE service isn’t heavily loaded. As operators sign up more 4G subscriptions and their networks become more congested, those speeds will likely come down.

Right now Brazilian subscribers are getting an LTE signal on about half of all data sessions. That’s nothing to scoff at considering Brazil’s 4G market is still young, but Brazilian operators still have some work to do before LTE comes truly pervasive. That said, Brazil has some decent 3G networks for consumers to fall back on. Only one operator, Nextel, averaged 3G speeds less than 1 Mbps, and three of them were able to supply a 3G or better data signal more than 80 percent of the time. Also, Brazil’s mobile users experienced relatively little time out of range of signal coverage compared to other developed countries.

Of course, three months out of a typical Brazilian winter will be nothing compared to three weeks of Olympics festivities. By this time next year, we’ll know just how prepared Brazil’s networks are.

(*) Editor’s note: In June of 2016, OpenSignal changed the name of its coverage metric to network availability. Availability measures the same thing as coverage — the proportion of time users remain connected to a particular network — but we felt that availability was a better reflection of the metric’s definition. For more details see our methodology page.

Methodology Notes

OpenSignal data is collected from regular consumer smartphones and recorded under conditions of normal usage. As opposed to drive-test data, which simulates the typical user experience by using the same devices to measure network performance in a small number of locations, we take our measurements from millions of smartphones owned by normal people who have downloaded the OpenSignal app.

Those measurements are taken wherever users happen to be, whether indoors or out, in a city or in the countryside, representing performance the way users experience it. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 176,644,833 datapoints were collected from 82,568 users during the period: May 1st - Jul 31st 2015

All data has been collected from users of the OpenSignal mobile app for Android or iOS.

For every metric we've calculated the statistical confidence interval and plotted this on all of the graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric we can't actually be sure which of the overlapping operators has the best performance.

For this reason some metrics have multiple operator winners when we've judged that the data is too close to call a victory.

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