State of Mobile Networks: Australia (November 2017)

As an early implementer of many advanced cellular technologies, Australia stands out as a very mature mobile broadband market. The latest OpenSignal test results illustrate this, showing strong 4G availability and speeds for the country, although some performed better than others in particular metrics and regions. Australia’s 4G availability was among the highest in the world in our testing, while its 4G speeds were more than double the global average of 16.6 Mbps. This report analyzes more than 218 million data points collected from 10,990 devices between July and September on Australia's three nationwide operators: Optus, Telstra and Vodafone.

Report Facts

218,574,415
Measurements
10,990
Test Devices
2017-07-01 - 2017-09-30
Sample Period
Australia
Report Location

Highlights

Strong 4G signals and speeds are among the best in the world

All three carriers tested provided a solid 4G signal most of the time, making it a three-way tie for 4G availability at 85%. As a country, Australia’s overall 4G availability places it in the top 10 of countries recently tested by OpenSignal. And Australia’s average 4G download speed of 34.1 Mbps is more than double the average 16.6 Mbps speed OpenSignal found globally.

Telstra and Vodafone tie for fastest 4G and overall speeds

Australia's use of advanced network technologies produced two winners in our 4G speed metrics. Telstra and Vodafone were statistically tied in our measurements with average LTE downloads over 35 Mbps. Meanwhile Optus lagged the top two with tested 4G downloads of 30.2 Mbps. Telstra and Vodafone were also tied for our overall download speed award.

4G experience even better in major cities

As in many countries, Australian operators try to offer excellent mobile broadband in highly populous regions. Unlike in some of those countries, though, Australia actually delivers on the experience. OpenSignal data from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney shows better results in nearly every tested metric when compared to Australia as a whole.

A mature 4G market means all eyes are on 5G

With Australia being an early adopter of many mobile technologies and services, the country is already looking to a faster future. This year saw numerous 5G trials and deployments are expected in the coming months. With strong 4G service today, Australia is in a good position to make the jump forward.

Awards Table

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

Optus

medal medal medal medal

Telstra

medal medal medal medal

Vodafone

medal medal medal medal medal

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Performance by Metric

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.

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.

Regional Performance

This chart shows the regional winners in each category OpenSignal measures. Click on the icons to see a more detailed graph showing each operator’s metrics in a particular region.

Legend: Optus Telstra Vodafone
Region Download Speed: 4G Latency: 4G Availability: 4G
Brisbane
Melbourne
Perth
Sydney

Some graph here

graph here

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Analysis

Based on the most recent OpenSignal State of LTE report published earlier this month, Australia’s networks provided some of the best 4G availability in the world. The average time spent on a 4G network for OpenSignal users in the country was 84.3%, a jump from 79.3% measured in the country just six months prior. That moves Australia into the top ten globally when it comes to 4G on-network time in our user tests.

And as a sign of just how mature the competitive mobile market is in Australia, our results show statistical parity in this metric, which is generally rare. Over this reporting period, OpenSignal users were able to find a 4G signal 85.4% of the time on Optus, 85.1% on Telstra and 85.9% on Vodafone. Though the three results are extremely close, we should point out that our availability metric does not measure geographic or population coverage. Rather 4G availability is a measure of how often an operator's current customers are able to access a 4G connection. Telstra has long invested heavily in geographic coverage, bringing mobile data services to some of the remotest parts of Australia. But as the vast majority of its customers don't live or work in those remote areas, the full extent of its LTE network coverage isn't reflected in our availability scores. For a breakdown of how the operators stack up in coverage, see this separate blog post.

The three operators' high level of 4G availability is understandable given the trio are now moving well beyond the 4G expansion phase of tower deployments and coverage-focused improvements. Instead they are now focused on repurposing 2G and 3G spectrum to create more powerful networks. In short, Australia is a mature mobile market.

Australia embraces LTE-Advanced

When on a 4G network in Australia, OpenSignal users experienced speeds that were typically twice that of the 16.6 Mbps global average, although two of the three networks stood out. Our 4G download speed award was a draw between Telstra (37.8 Mbps) and Vodafone (35.2 Mbps). OpenSignal testers on Optus saw an average 4G download speed of 30.2 Mbps; still quite fast but behind that of its two main competitors.

All three operators use advanced cellular technologies such as carrier aggregation, a technique that combines multiple LTE channels into extremely high-bandwidth links. Telstra has gone so far as to bond together five such channels in some areas of the country. Depending on the frequency band, Optus combines between two and four channels, while Vodafone uses the same carrier aggregation techniques albeit over less spectrum. Telstra and Optus also use multiple antenna technology (4x4 MIMO) and more complex modulation schemes (256 QAM). In many ways Australia has outpaced LTE technological development. Very few commercially available smartphones are capable of supporting the advanced MIMO and carrier aggregation technologies we see in Australia, meaning most devices aren't capable of accessing the full potential of the network. As handset technology improves, though, we could see average speeds climb even higher, particularly on Telstra's ultra-powerful LTE-Advanced network.

Vodafone and Optus provided strong 3G download speeds of 6.3 Mbps and 6.5 Mbps respectively for our testers, earning them a draw in this category. Meanwhile OpenSignal users saw 5.7 Mbps downloads on Telstra’s 3G network. It’s worth watching this category for all three operators in the future as they begin cannibalizing their UMTS/HSPA networks for more 4G and eventually 5G spectrum. They will likely sunset some 3G services through a transitional period.

Even with its good showing in 3G speed, Optus wasn't able to break into the winning column in overall download speed. Instead, Telstra and Vodafone tied in this metric, which measures the average speeds of OpenSignal users on both an operator’s 3G and 4G networks. Testers on Telstra saw average overall downloads clocking in at 30.9 Mbps while those on Vodafone experienced 29.4 Mbps speeds, and those on Optus saw an average download of 24.9 Mbps. 4G availability can impact these results because the more accessible LTE services are, the less time devices typically spend on the slower 3G network.

OpenSignal testers on Optus did experience the least latency on its 4G network, earning the operator its sole outright win in our metrics, however. A data delay of 33.6 milliseconds on the Optus 4G network was less than our testers experienced on Telstra (39.8ms) and Vodafone (35.8s). Latency on all of the operators 3G networks was similar for all OpenSignal users during the testing window, ranging from 73.25ms to 81.6ms, making for a three-way tie.

Our users found that in specific regions of the country, 4G speeds and availability were often even better than the averages found across Australia. In Brisbane, for example, OpenSignal testers averaged 4G downloads of 46 Mbps and signal availability of 91.6%. We also measured 4G speeds and availability above the national average for nearly every operator in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. This indicates that operators have smartly concentrated network capabilities in densely populated areas while not neglecting more rural areas, which still had excellent mobile broadband service.

A faster 5G future beckons

With such a mature and competitive mobile market between three carriers, it’s nearly time to look ahead at what’s next in Australia. And the operators are doing just that, leading trials of advanced technologies as we transition towards a 5G future. Like any network transition, a balance is needed between implementing new networks while not causing too many pain points for customers still using old technologies.

Optus is still rolling out VoLTE on its 4G network, for example, so some voice calls are still reliant on its 3G 900 MHz infrastructure. Once the operator completes the VoLTE rollout and customers transition to devices that can use it, Optus could move some or all of that 900 MHz spectrum to 4G. In February, the operator tested what it calls LTE 4.5, demonstrating mobile speeds of 1.03 Gbps, and expects to partially deploy it in five metropolitan areas by February, 2018. And in June, using Massive MIMO antenna technology combined with three channels, Optus demonstrated peak throughput wireless speeds of 818 Mbps. All of these new upgrades could form the foundation of a future 5G deployment.

Telstra, too is moving towards a 5G future, saying in August that it plans 5G trials early next year. The operator also turned off its 900 Mhz 2G network in December 2016, freeing up those frequencies for advanced services. Not to be outdone, Vodafone last month demonstrated 717 Mbps throughput speeds using Massive MIMO technology, which it expects to deploy in certain areas of Australia next year.

Regardless of future plans, Australia’s mobile broadband market today is already among the best in the world when it comes to 4G. Strong signals abound with download speeds are some of the fastest in the world. If any country is building a testbed for future 5G services, it's Australia.

Editor's Note: Last year OpenSignal made some adjustments to both the way we collect data from our smartphone apps and the methodology we use to parse that data. The changes haven't affected our overall rankings of networks around the world, but for the sake of analytical rigor we aren't making any direct comparisons between results collected for this report and our June 2016 Australia report.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. We collect 2 billion individual measurements every day from tens of millions of smartphones worldwide.

Our measurements are collected at all hours of the day, every day of the year, under conditions of normal usage, including inside buildings and outdoors, in cities and the countryside, and everywhere in between. By analyzing on-device measurements recorded in the places where subscribers actually live, work and travel, we report on mobile network service the way users truly experience it.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the changing experience of consumers on mobile networks and, therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data, see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 218,574,415 datapoints were collected from 10,990 users during the period: 2017-07-01 - 2017-09-30.

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.

©2017 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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