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Mobile Broadband Review 2012 / 2013


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2014-02-13

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Outperforms in 2013

A dramatic improvement in performance by Vodafone was shown in mobile broadband speed tests measured by TrueNet between 2012 and 2013.

Where Telecom showed superior performance in 2012, by the end of 2013 Vodafone has overtaken its competitors and now leads in Mobile broadband performance.

Check out the Interactive maps here (click on any dot, or untick a carrier)

Mobile Broadband File Download Speeds - Auckland and Wellington

TrueNet developed a mobile test device that runs identical data tests at the same instant on the three networks - Vodafone, Telecom, and 2Degrees

Interactive Map -  Performance Results

Telecom, Vodafone & 2Degrees

Throughout each test walk, TrueNet measures the performance of the 3 Mobile providers simultaneously at each point. A typical set of results are given in the Interactive charts of Wellington and Auckland (Maps 1 & 2) below. 
Please explore results in the interactive chart. The size of “dots” indicate the relative speed, colour indicates which mobile company did best. Click on a dot to display the results at that location.  Data for each mobile company can be selected/unselected using the tick boxes in the corner at the bottom of the chart.

Map 1: Wellington File Download Speeds

Map 2: Auckland File Download Speeds

TrueNet's Approach to Testing

  • Walked a specific route within the CBD in Auckland and Wellington, and the test data was collected over a few days
  • Tests taken at midday during good weather to maximise the outdoor use of smartphones, and when the network is under peak load
  • Test apparatus includes three 21 Mbit/s cellular modems
  • Tests are 3G-only. LTE (4G) was introduced during the period so was not available for testing  
  • All tests are started concurrently
  • Results are excluded where one or more modem fails to respond. This results in better speeds by removing failed tests and timeouts. (note each carrier has timeouts / failures during each test walk)

Tests aim to show the overall experience of Mobile Broadband user's connection to the Internet, based on testing from TrueNet test servers. 

This report covers testing from 3 time periods in each city (2012  - 2013), giving a view of evolving network performance. During this time there has been rapid growth of Smartphone data use, as well as major improvements to the mobile networks themselves.

Mobile Broadband Test Results for 2012 - 2013

Mobile data networks are often marketed by their peak download speeds. The user browsing experience is strongly affected by download speed, though other factors such as latency and DNS performance play a part as well. Peak speeds for Mobile networks will rarely – if ever – be reached during our test conditions, where several users will contend for data access from each cell site.

Speed - (File Downloads)

Charts 1 & 2 indicate median download performance for each city over the two year test period . Note that TrueNet presents Medians in our results, due to the skewed nature of the distribution of tests.

Wellington CBD

Two carriers performances were generally static or slightly slower over time. This may be due to increased user demand and competition for available bandwidth.
Vodafone experiences significant speed increase during 2013 after being last in 2012.

Chart 1: Mobile File Download Speed - Wellington

Auckland CBD

Both 2Degrees and Vodafone improved in 2013, but again Vodafone's improvement is significant from last in 2012 to fastest in 2013. Telecom's speed is static, as in Wellington.

Chart 2: Mobile File Download Speed - Auckland

Mobile Broadband Speed Comparison 2012 - 2013

These graphs represent the median of each test period, per mobile carrier.  If we examine the distribution of results per carrier, it gives greater insight to the changes over time.

Vodafone 2013 Results - File Downloads

Vodafone mobile broadband speeds are good in Wellington, but even better in Auckland. There has been considerable improvement from 2012 to 2013.

In Auckland, 62% of Vodafone's speed tests measured between 4 - 6 Mbit/s

In Wellington, 44% of Vodafone's speed tests measured between 4 - 6Mbit/s

Telecom 2013 Results - File Downloads

Telecom's mobile broadband performances show much faster speeds in Auckland than Wellington, but with no improvement since 2012. 

In Auckland, 53% of Telecom's speed tests lay between 3 - 5Mbit/s. 

In Wellington, 62% of  Telecom's speed tests lay between 2 - 4Mbit/s. 

Auckland 2012 - 2013 - File Downloads

The improvement in speed test results is most noticeable with Vodafone. Big improvements in overall speed, and the proportion of tests with sustained high speed is clearly evident in the 2013 results.

Charts 3a & b: Auckland Speed Distributions, 2012 (left) and 2013 (right)

 

The distribution charts show that Vodafone and 2Degrees not only improved the median (typical) speed, but also exhibit many more tests at higher speeds. The Telecom network shows a strong consistent result around 4Mb/s, with the network becoming more consistent (less high or low speed results) in 2013.

Wellington 2012 - 2013 - File Downloads

 Charts 4a & b: Wellington Speed Distributions, 2012 (left) and 2013 (right)

 

The distribution of results are different from Auckland, but show that Vodafone improved from a situation where there were a large number of low speed and higher speed tests (bi-modal) in 2012, to having many more tests complete at higher speeds in 2013.

Speed - File Uploads

For users uploading content to social media, or moving files to the cloud while doing business around town, upload performance will also be important for a good user experience.

Chart 6a: Wellington - File Upload

Chart 6b: Auckland - File Upload

The Wellington and Auckland Upload test results above reveal modest upload rates up to the end of 2013. Our tests indicate significantly better upload performance on the Vodafone network.

Some readers will be interested in LTE network performance, and comparisons to existing 3G services. Over the period of this study (2012 to late 2013), LTE (4G) was not sufficiently deployed to be included in the tests.

Webpage Download Time (Browsing performance)

Browsing on a mobile has become an important part of general mobile usage, so TrueNet  has included it in this mobile performance report. We measure the time taken to download a webpage from our Wellington server.  This means the webpage is a little slower in Auckland than Wellington, but this does not impact each Chart, 5a and 5b.

Speed is not the only driver of browsing performance, a comparison of the time it takes to download a webpage is equally important as it reflects the actual user experience.

All three carriers had almost the same result at the end of 2013, in both Wellington and Auckland.   2Degrees and Vodafone had a poor 4Q 2012, but have clearly resolved any issues.

Chart 5a: Wellington Browsing Performance

Chart 5b: Auckland Browsing Performance

Glossary

LTE - Long Term Evolution, the next generation of mobile technology after 3G.  Vodafone and Telecom are both in the process of enabling LTE in major centres.  It is limited to very recent model phones as at the end of 2013 when these tests were being performed.

Latency - The time for a packet of data to be returned by a remote server to a mobile phone when a "Ping" command is issued. 

DNS - Domain Name Server. As the Internet is based on IP addresses, a DNS service translates domain names into corresponding IP addresses.

More Technical Details - See previous article Here


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