State of Mobile Networks: Malaysia (March 2016)

Unlike so many other countries in the world, Malaysia has no 4G speed king. Three years after its first LTE network came online, the country's operators are locked in a close battle for 4G dominance, though one provider, Maxis, holds an edge due to its superior LTE availability. Drawing on 40 million data samples collected by 21,000 OpenSignal users between Dec. 1 and Feb. 29, we put Malaysia under the network microscope, examining the 3G and 4G performance of its four nationwide operators.

Report Facts

39,621,885
Measurements
21,109
Test Devices
2015-12-01 - 2016-02-29
Sample Period
Malaysia
Report Location

Highlights

Maxis leads the way in 4G availability

Maxis won OpenSignal's award for best 4G availability hands down. In our three-month test period, Maxis 4G users were able to connect to its LTE network 70% of the time, putting it not only well ahead of its Malaysian peers but the majority of operators worldwide.

A three-way race for fastest 4G provider

There was no clear-cut winner in LTE speed for our test period. DiGi, Maxis and U Mobile all delivered average LTE download speeds between 12 and 14 Mbps, close enough to produce a three-way statistical tie. When we measured average speed across all mobile data networks, Maxis emerged as the winner with an overall download speed of 5.2 Mbps.

Celcom's 4G service struggles

Of the four major Malaysian operators, Celcom performed the worst on the national level, lagging behind its competitors in speed, availability and even latency. In Malaysia's Klang Valley surrounding Kuala Lumpur, though, Celcom fared far better. The operator shared the award for fastest 3G network with U Mobile and tied for second in 4G availability.

Malaysian networks keep up with global technology trends

Malaysia's 4G networks aren't the fastest in the world, but they are close to matching the global average of 13.5 Mbps. Like many other countries worldwide, Malaysia is also testing out new LTE-Advanced technologies.

Awards Table

Download Speed: 4G Download Speed: 3G Download Speed: Overall Latency: 4G Latency: 3G Availability: 4G

Celcom

DiGi

medal medal

Maxis

medal medal medal medal medal

U Mobile

medal medal medal medal

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Performance by Metric

Availability: 4G

This metric shows the proportion of time OpenSignal users have an LTE connection available to them on each operator’s network. It's a measure of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.

Download Speed: 4G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: 3G

This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.

Download Speed: Overall

This metric shows the average download speed experienced by OpenSignal users across all of an operator's 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE availability tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend more time connected to slower 3G networks.

Latency: 4G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Latency: 3G

This metric shows the average latency for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it makes a round trip through the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Analysis

Malaysia's first LTE networks came online in 2013, and in the intervening three years, the country's four major operators have built out a 4G infrastructure that's kept pace with the rest of the world. The Tiger Cub economy is delivering 4G speeds just short of the global average of 13.5 Mbps, and its operators are already expanding network capacity, boosting speeds with new technology and offering new 4G services like voice over LTE. The one area where Malaysia still trails globally is overall 4G availability.

Of Malaysia's four major service providers, Maxis in particular distinguished itself in the three months of testing for this report. It won awards in two of the six categories we measured outright, and tied for the lead in three others. Most notably it won OpenSignal's award for the LTE network with the highest level of availability. Our availability (*) metric measures the proportion of time users can see a signal on a particular network. In the case of Maxis, 4G availability was 70%. Neither Celcom, DiGi nor U Mobile scored higher than 58%.

In terms of speed, operators were more closely matched. We measured average 4G download speeds for U Mobile at 13.8 Mbps, Maxis at 13 Mbps and DiGi at 12.4 Mbps, but the overlapping statistical margins on those results produced a three-way draw between the operators. U Mobile, however, won OpenSignal's award for fastest 3G network. U Mobile had an average 3G download speed of 3.3 Mbps, beating out all of its competitors even though it shares 3G infrastructure with Maxis outside of urban markets.

When we factored in both 3G and 4G networks and their respective availability metrics, though, Maxis clearly came out on top. Because of its superior LTE availability, its customers were able to connect to its faster 4G network more often, pushing their average overall download speeds to 5.2 Mbps.

A closer look at the capital

For this report we also examined network performance in Malaysia's Klang Valley, which encompasses Kuala Lumpur and surrounding cities, and found the region generally followed national trends for speed while improving on network availability. Maxis continued to dominate in availability providing an LTE signal 77% of the time in the Klang Valley. Celcom and DiGi battled for second place with availability metrics around 66%.

While Celcom did quite poorly on the national level — finishing last or tied for last in every category — its networks performed much better in Malaysia's economic center. In addition to improved 4G availability in the Klang Valley, it shared the regional award for fastest 3G network with U Mobile with both operators averaging about 3 Mbps. Celcom still couldn't match its peers in LTE speeds in the capital region where we saw the same three-way draw we found on the national level. U Mobile, Maxis and DiGi all averaged between 13 and 14 Mbps in 4G download speeds, compared to Celcom's average of 10.6 Mbps. When we calculated combined 3G and 4G regional performance, though, Maxis again emerged as the overall speed-award winner. Due to its superior LTE availability, Maxis's overall average speed in the Klang Valley came in at 6.5 Mbps, beating all of its competitors by nearly a megabit.

What the future holds

The final metric we calculated was network latency, which is essentially the time it takes data to make a round trip through the network. It's an important measure of how responsive a 3G or 4G service is. A low latency connection means web pages begin to load faster after the initial click, and subscribers experience less delay when using real-time communications apps. On the 4G side of the network, we again had a three-way tie for the lowest-latency award between DiGi, Maxis and U-Mobile. This metric will be particularly important to DiGi as that operator plans to launch a commercial voice over LTE service this year. Reduced latency will mean better quality calls.

In addition to VoLTE, DiGi is rolling out new LTE networks using old 2G spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. That upgrade effectively doubles its overall 4G capacity and thanks to an LTE technology called carrier aggregation, could double the speeds available over some connections. Maxis is also expanding 4G into the 1800 MHz band, but has gone one step further. It's upgrading its networks with LTE-Advanced technologies, which — theoretically at least — should give it the most powerful 4G network in Malaysia. As these new technologies make it to more cities and spread to the country's other operators, Malaysia may no longer merely keep up with global LTE trends. It could start exceeding them.

(*) Editor’s note: When this report was originally published OpenSignal used the term time coverage for what is now our availability metric. We changed the name to avoid confusion of this metric with geographic and population coverage metrics, and we have reflected that change in our old reports. The new terminology, however, does not reflect a new methodology. Time coverage and availability represent the same measurement: the proportion of time OpenSignal users can connect to a particular network.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal data is collected from consumer smartphones and recorded under conditions of normal usage. As opposed to drive-test data, which attempts to simulate what a user might 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 regular people who have downloaded OpenSignal’s apps.

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

For this particular report, 39,621,885 datapoints were collected from 21,109 users during the period: 2015-12-01 - 2016-02-29.

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

For every metric we've calculated statistical confidence intervals and plotted them on all of the graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric, our measured results are too close to declare a winner in a particular category. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

©2016 OpenSignal, Inc. All rights reserved.

OpenSignal, Inc retains ownership of this report including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports produced by OpenSignal, Inc may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent.

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