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 coverage. 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.

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Maxis leads the way in 4G coverage

Maxis won OpenSignal's award for best 4G coverage 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, coverage 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 coverage.

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.

Report Facts

Report Location Malaysia
Data Sample Size 39,621,885
User Sample Size 21,109
Sample Period Dec 1st 2015 - Feb 29th 2016

Overall Network Comparison

Download Speed: 4GDownload Speed: 3GDownload Speed: OverallLatency: 4GLatency: 3GCoverage: 4G

Celcom

DiGi

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Maxis

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U Mobile

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Network Coverage Comparison

Coverage: 4G

This metric shows the proportion of time LTE subscribers on each network have 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.

Download Speed: Overall

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

Network Latency Comparison

Latency: 4G

This metric shows the average latency on each network on 4G (LTE) connections. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

Latency: 3G

This metric shows the average latency on each network on 3G connections. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in 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 coverage.

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 coverage. We track network availability through a metric called time coverage (*), which measures the proportion of time users can see a signal on a particular network. In the case of Maxis, 4G time coverage 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 coverages, though, Maxis clearly came out on top. Because of its superior LTE coverage, 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 coverage providing an LTE signal 77% of the time in the Klang Valley. Celcom and DiGi battled for second place with time coverage 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 coverage 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 coverage, 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: In June of 2016, OpenSignal changed the name its time coverage metric to network availability. Availability measures the same thing as time 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, 39,621,885 datapoints were collected from 21,109 users during the period: Dec 1st 2015 - Feb 29th 2016

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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Recent Malaysia Reports

This is the first in a new schedule of regular reports comparing operator performance in Malaysia. We will be publishing new reports every 6-12 months so stay tuned.

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