State of Mobile Networks: Costa Rica (November 2016)

OpenSignal is partnering with Sutel to see how 3G and 4G data services in the Costa Rica stack up. Drawing on more than 32 million measurements collected between August and October, we break down the 3G and 4G performance of Claro, Kölbi and Movistar. What we found was a country with excellent mobile data access, but poor mobile broadband speeds. (For a Spanish version of this report click here.)

Report Facts

32,689,810
Measurements
2,688
Test Devices
2016-08-01 - 2016-10-31
Sample Period
Costa Rica
Report Location

Highlights

Movistar runs away with our awards

Movistar continues to dominate our 3G and 4G metrics, winning all of OpenSignal's speed, availability and latency awards. Our tests indicate Movistar not only has the most developed 4G service in the country, but the best 3G performance to boot.

It's easy to find a mobile data signal

Costa Rica's operators have done an impressive job bringing 3G services to their customers. Our data shows all three operators were able to supply a 3G or better connection more than 87% of the time.

It's not easy to find a fast signal

Though mobile data signals may be plentiful, they're not that powerful. Both 3G and 4G speeds in Costa Rica were much slower than global averages.

4G capacity is clearly still limited

The fastest 4G download speeds we measured in Costa Rica were on Movistar's LTE network, averaging 6.1 Mbps. Operators haven't plowed the large amounts of spectrum into their 4G networks that we see in other parts of the world, but speeds should improve as they boost their capacity.

Awards Table

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

Claro

Kölbi

Movistar

medal medal medal 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.

Availability: 3G/4G

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

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

Costa Rica's 3G services are impressive, but it still has some catching up to do in 4G — especially when it comes to speed. OpenSignal is partnering with telecom regulator Sutel to produce a State of Mobile Networks Report for Costa Rica. Drawing on 32.7 million measurements collected by 2,688 OpenSignal smartphone users between Aug. 1 and October 31, we examined the 3G and 4G performance of this Central American country's three major mobile operators: América Móvil's Claro, Grupo ICE's Kölbi and Telefónica's Movistar.

We found all three operators provided excellent access to 3G connections, with one operator, Movistar, performing quite impressively in 4G availability as well. Our testers were able to find a 3G or better signal on Claro, Kölbi and Movistar more than 87.9% of the time. In Movistar's case 3G/4G availability was as high as 97.3% in our tests, meaning there was practically no instance where our testers couldn't find a data signal on the operator's network.

When we looked at 4G only, the results were more mixed. We were able to detect an LTE signal on Movistar 76.9% of the time, but for Kölbi, we only found LTE connections 43.7% of the time. For Claro we collected very limited number of tests on its 4G network, perhaps reflecting its earlier stage of LTE rollout compared to the other operators. Due to that limited data, we've excluded Claro from our 4G metrics.

In terms of speed, however, all three operators came up lacking. While we see LTE download speeds in many areas of the world pushing beyond 30 Mbps, the highest average 4G connection we measured in Costa Rica was 6.1 Mbps, again on Movistar's network. Costa Rican operators have been hampered by the limited amount of spectrum they have to devote to 4G services. That said, we found 3G services to be on the sluggish side in Costa Rica as well, with all three operators testing below the 3.2 Mbps global average we measured in our last State of LTE report. When we factored in both 3G and 4G speeds as well as 4G availability, we found overall speeds — representing the average connection across all an operator's networks — in the 1.9 Mbps to 4.1 Mbps range (we only included 3G speed in our overall speed calculations for Claro).

The final metric we examined was latency, which is a measure of a network's reaction time. The lower the latency of a connection the faster web pages will begin rendering and the less lag time users experience in real-time communications apps like video calling. Movistar won both our 3G and 4G latency awards.

In conclusion, Costa Rica is quite the interesting case when it comes to providing mobile data services. The country's operators have built out an expansive 3G infrastructure — reflected in its high overall availability scores — but we don't see that same level of development in 4G, especially when it comes to deploying LTE capacity. The good news is that a spectrum auction is on the horizon. As operators begin plowing more spectrum into their 4G networks, speeds should increase considerably.

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, 32,689,810 datapoints were collected from 2,688 users during the period: 2016-08-01 - 2016-10-31.

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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