State of Mobile Networks: Brazil (January 2018)

Brazil is among the leading countries in Latin America if you want fast 4G downloads, but not all of the Brazilian operators are equal when it comes to LTE speeds and availability. Based on our users' test results, Claro continued to lead the way in speed, while TIM maintained its big advantage in LTE accessibility. This report analyzes test results from Brazil's four nationwide 4G operators -- plus some additional data from Nextel’s 3G and limited 4G services -- from September through November of 2017 and is based on more than 1.6 billion datapoints collected from 87,774 devices using OpenSignal software.

Report Facts

1,646,563,481
Measurements
87,774
Test Devices
2017-09-01 - 2017-11-30
Sample Period
Brazil
Report Location

Highlights

4G signal availability continues to improve in Brazil

In our last Brazil report, we noted that 4G accessibility in Brazil was quite poor with two operators unable to deliver a 4G connection more than half the time. This time around the situation has improved. Our testers on TIM’s network found a 4G connection more than 70% of the time, and all of Brazil's national operators had availability scores well over 50%.

Claro still leads in 4G and overall speed

Claro won or tied for the most OpenSignal awards for the third report in a row. Claro far outpaced its competitors in 4G speed by delivering LTE downloads of 28.6 Mbps to OpenSignal testers. It also had the fastest overall speeds in our tests, averaging 12.1 Mbps.

There’s more 4G competition in different regions of Brazil

While Claro led in our 4G speed metric and TIM excelled in our 4G availability tests across Brazil, in certain regions competitors overcame their national advantage. Vivo’s LTE speed result of 31.3 Mbps earned it our 4G download award in Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile we recorded a three way tie in Belo Horizonte for LTE availability.

Brazil is getting faster speeds, but 4G reach is still limited

LTE download speeds have clearly improved in Brazil since our last report and they compare favorably to other Latin American countries. However, even though 4G availability increased in Brazil since our last OpenSignal report, access to 4G signals overall remained poor for the region.

Awards Table

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

Claro

medal medal medal

Nextel

medal medal

Oi

medal

TIM

medal

Vivo

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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: Claro Nextel Oi TIM Vivo
Region Download Speed: 4G Availability: 4G
Belo Horizonte
Rio de Janeiro
São Paulo

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graph here

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Analysis

4G is growing up in Brazil. After years of providing poor access to LTE networks, we see the first signs of LTE becoming more widely available in the vast South American country. TIM became the first operator in Brazil to surpass the 70% mark in 4G availability in our tests, and all four nationwide operators demonstrated marked improvement in this metric. Meanwhile Brazil's 4G speeds continued to get faster.

In this report, OpenSignal analyzed more than 1.6 billion measurements taken from 87,774 devices between September and November of last year. We compared the 3G and 4G services of Brazil's four major operators as well as the 3G results of fifth-largest operator, Nextel. We also broke down our metrics in Brazil's three largest metropolitan areas: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

More 4G signal strength for all

LTE availability, which measures the amount of time our OpenSignal testers found a 4G signal, is extremely important. After all, fast 4G downloads aren’t very useful if you can only find them a small portion of the time. OpenSignal users were able to find them on TIM 71.9% of the time, which is a significant increase from our June report in which TIM provided a 4G signal 65.1% of the time. This result again earned TIM our OpenSignal award for 4G availability and suggests that TIM’s 4G network is relatively mature.

Claro, Oi and Vivo also made 4G availability gains since our last reporting period, but none approached the same level of access as TIM. Vivo came the closest, with our testers able to find 4G service 61.8% of the time. Meanwhile Claro and Oi showed 4G availability improvements between 5% and 9% since our last report, but they were both significantly behind TIM and Vivo. Our Claro users were able to tap a 4G signal 58.3% of the time while Oi users could only just muster 4G service 53.9% of the time.

Claro’s network investments pay off

Claro stood out in this test period when it came to both 4G speeds and overall download speeds. With our testers experiencing 28.6 Mbps 4G downloads and overall speeds of 12.1 Mbps, Claro was the outright winner in both these categories. Its lead here remained large even though Claro’s 4G speeds decreased slightly since our last look.

We found Vivo’s 4G download speeds improved from 20.6 Mbps in June to 22.7 Mbps during the current reporting period. Both carriers delivered LTE speeds above the global average of 16.6 Mbps tracked in November’s State of LTE report. LTE downloads on Oi and TIM were noticeably slower. Both were more than 2 Mbps behind the global average in our tests.

There are several likely explanations for Claro’s dominance in 4G speeds. In June 2016, Claro upgraded its infrastructure to support advanced wireless technologies such as multiple antenna technology (4x4 MIMO) and more complex modulation schemes (256 QAM), something its peers don’t yet offer. Claro also announced in September that it would deploy 9,000 LTE-Advanced base stations by the end of 2017, combining 35 MHz of spectrum across three network bands.

As Nextel only offers 4G service in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, we didn't include the operator in our national 4G results. But Nextel's 3G network did stand out. Our testers experienced 4.9 Mbps 3G downloads on Nextel’s network, earning the operator the OpenSignal award for the fastest 3G speeds. Nextel’s 3G network latency of 73.8 milliseconds was also the best across all tested networks, giving Nextel a second OpenSignal award this period.

The OpenSignal award for overall download speeds includes both 3G and 4G download test results as well as the availability of each technology. Claro’s fast 4G service combined with its high 3G speeds earned it the overall-download title with a tested average of 12 Mbps. Vivo’s network provided overall downloads of 9.3 Mbps for our testers, likely helped by Vivo’s high 4G availability as users spent more time on a faster 4G network. Overall downloads on TIM and Oi clocked in at 8.2 Mbps and 5.6 Mbps respectively in our measurements.

Claro also earned an OpenSignal award for low latency on its 4G network, which measures how quickly a network’s response time is. We measured Claro’s 4G latency to be 58.7 milliseconds. Claro wasn’t the sole award winner though: Oi’s network response time of 60.8ms earned it a tie with Claro.

The 4G experience varies depending on operator and region

While Claro won our national 4G speed award it had some competition on the regional level, particularly in the populous area in and around Rio de Janeiro. Here Vivo’s 4G network took the OpenSignal regional award for 4G speed with an average download of 31.3 Mbps. Claro, however, won our 4G speed awards in Belo Horizonte and São Paolo, in the former's case by a very large margin. Claro delivered average downloads of 36.8 Mbps to our testers in Belo Horizonte, more than 11 Mbps ahead of second-place Vivo.

Finding a 4G signal in Brazil's major cities was much easier than elsewhere in Brazil. That makes sense since the country has pockets of highly populated areas amongst large swaths of rural areas. In Rio, TIM’s network provided our users a 4G signal 82.2% of the time, earning it our OpenSignal 4G availability award for this region. Vivo and Nextel followed with strong 4G availability of 71% and 70.9% respectively. Test results In São Paolo also showed a single winner for LTE availability though there was a much closer contest: TIM’s 4G availability of 83.7% nudged out Vivo's score of 81.4%. And while we definitely found evidence of Nextel's new LTE network in São Paolo, it appears to be still in its formative stages. Our testers were only able to find a Nextel 4G signal in the city 39.8% of the time.

In Belo Horizonte, though, we saw the closest regional competition in 4G availability. In fact, we recorded a three-way tie between Claro, TIM and Vivo in this category. Our users were able to access all three operators' 4G service 80% or more of the time.

Brazil’s 4G speeds are good, but LTE availability lags

In November, we took a deeper dive into the 4G experience across seven Latin American countries, finding that the average 4G speed download in Brazil (20.3 Mbps) was second only to that of Mexico (22 Mbps) among its large peers. But fast LTE speeds don’t mean much if you can’t reliably find an LTE signal. And here’s where Brazil falls short. Among the seven countries we examined, Brazil’s 4G availability was dead last at 59.3%. Granted, the situation has improved over time: A year prior, that 4G availability was 53.9%.

Even so, the 4G availability gains in other Latin American countries have outpaced those of Brazil as operators in Peru, Mexico and Argentina appear to have invested more in their network buildouts. This explains the 4G availability lead in Peru (75.1%), Mexico (73.5%) and Argentina (71%). In short, Brazil's 4G networks are powerful, but their reach is still limited outside of densely populated cities. That's an issue operators will need to address if they hope to keep up with Brazil's neighbors.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks as they go about their daily lives. We collect 3 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, 1,646,563,481 datapoints were collected from 87,774 users during the period: 2017-09-01 - 2017-11-30.

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.

©2018 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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