OpenSignal’s Broadband Speed Report
From the latest OpenSignal’s monitoring data on the Australian mobile broadband network, the country still stands strong in terms of 4G availability and download speeds. Metrics collected per region indicate that Telstra and Vodafone have the fastest 4G download speeds while Optus leads in 4G latency and 3G download speeds. All the 3 leading telcos in Australia have displayed strong 4G availability scores, making Australia among the best in the world.
The report covers the period between July 1 and September 1, 2017. In conducting the research, OpenSignal used 10,990 devices which generated over 218 million data points. The reason why Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone were the only telcos monitored over the duration is because of nationwide presence and the size of the market they command. All the possible trends and experiences gathered from these 3 telcos can be said to represent the Australian telecommunication market.
Performance by Metric
In describing the performance of the telco market in Australia, OpenSignal used 6 metrics. In each of the metrics, the wireless coverage mapping company scored the 3 telcos and ranked them based on their performance.
In this metric, OpenSignal looked at the proportion of time the users under review had an LTE connection available on each of the 3 telcos network. It is simply a measure of the frequency with which subscribers can access a 4G network. This metric does not capture population and geographic coverage.
Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone showed statistical parity in 4G availability over the reporting period. On average, Australia recorded a jump in the time spent on a 4G network from 79.3% measured earlier to 84.3%. That said, there were minimal variations in 4G availability scores with Vodafone leading the pack with 85.9% followed by Optus on 85.4%, and lastly Telstra on 85.1%.
This is a strong indicator for Vodafone performance following its massive network investments. Though Telstra may be seen to be lagging, that may not be the case because the data collected is skewed towards cities and urban areas. For a long time, Telstra has invested heavily in enhancing its geographical coverage by bringing mobile data services to areas classified as remote.
4G Download Speeds
This metric captures the average download speed OpenSignal users experienced for each operator on LTE connections. The global average on this metric is 16.6 Mbps and Australia has twice that speed. Even with that, performance differed slightly from one telco to the other. Telstra and Vodafone stood out with the former recording 37.8 Mbps while the latter 35.2 Mbps. Optus recorded average download speeds of 30.2 Mbps over the 4G network. While this is quite fast, it clearly puts it behind its two main rivals.
The cellular technologies employed by the 3 operators are advanced and include carrier aggregation which is basically a technique combining more than one LTE channels resulting into exceptionally high bandwidth links.
3G Download Speeds
Just like the 4G speeds metric, this metric captures the performance of the operators in terms of their performance on 3G connections. Vodafone and Optus showed neck-to-neck competition with impressive speeds of 6.3 Mbps and 6.5 Mbps respectively. This means Optus carried the day thigh marginally. Telstra came a distant third with 3G download speeds of 5.7 Mbps.
This is an interesting category to closely monitor for all the 3 operators. This is because as the future unfolds, they will start cannibalising their 3G networks to give them more of 4G availability and ultimately launch into the 5G spectrum. Some of the 3G services are likely to be sunset through a transitional period.
Overall Download Speeds
Data on this metric captured the overall experience of OpenSignal users across both the 3G and 4G networks. The overall speeds also factor in the availability of each of these network technologies. Generally, telcos with lower LTE availability tend to have slower overall download speeds because a sizable number of their customers spend most of their time on the 3G network which is far much slower than 4G.
Telstra and Vodafone stood out once again on this category, overtaking Optus despite the latter showing strong performance on 3G speed. It is Telstra that led the pack with 30.9 Mbps followed by Vodafone at 29.4 Mbps, and in third position Optus with 24.9 Mbps average overall download speeds. These results are influenced by 4G availability because the more available the 4G network, the lesser the time subscribers spend on 3G network.
Measured in milliseconds, latency is basically the time taken by data as it makes a round trip through a network. Telcos with lower scores on this metric are classified as having more responsive networks. Optus emerged the winner in this metric with a data delay of only 33.6 milliseconds compared to Telstra and Vodafone which scored 39.8 and 35.8 milliseconds respectively.
Over the testing window, OpenSignal users experienced similar latency on the 3G network across the operators. The latency ranged between 73.25 and 81.6 milliseconds, making a 3-way tie.
Four main regions were selected across Australia to participate in the monitoring exercise: Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.
Brisbane recorded average 4G download speeds of 46 Mbps and a 4G signal availability of 91.6%. This made the Queensland capital the top most city among the 4. In Sydney, Telstra leads in two of the metrics with 91.7% 4G availability and 44.61 Mbps 4G download speeds. Optus still retains its lead in 4G latency in Sydney at 35.72 milliseconds. It’s a mixed bag of fortunes with every carrier fighting for space.
Looking ahead, each of the operators is investing heavily in advanced technologies targeting transmission into a 5G future. On its part, Optus is transiting from its 3G 900 MHz infrastructure into a more advanced 4G VoLTE network. Telstra already turned off its 2G 900 MHz network and now plans for 5G trials while Vodafone has already demonstrated the capabilities of its Massive MIMO technology which can do throughput speeds of up to 717 Mbps. With strong signals, blazing fast download speeds, and low latencies, Australia’s mobile broadband market is truly mature and competitive!