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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Download Speed: 4G||Download Speed: 3G||Download Speed: Overall||Latency: 4G||Latency: 3G||Availability: 4G||Availability: 3G/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.
This metric shows the proportion of time users on each network have a 3G or 4G (LTE) connection available to them.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by OpenSignal users.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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