4G In Australia: Telstra Is Fastest, But Vodafone Wins On Availability

Wireless coverage mapping expert OpenSignal has released its first ever report on the state of mobile networks within Australia, and its findings are pretty interesting, if not completely surprising: Telstra currently offers the fastest possible download speeds on 4G, but that comes at the cost of slightly higher latency where Vodafone and Optus swing ahead. Vodafone also wins out on the availability of its 4G networks, with a slight advantage over both its competitors.

Smartphone image via Shutterstock

The State Of The Mobile Network Report charts the performance of Australia's three main mobile carriers over time using the performance stats captured by any users of the OpenSignal app for Android and iPhone, which continually runs tests over time rather than relying on a single-shot test for maximum download and upload speeds like Ookla's Speedtest.net.

Rather than quantifying a carrier's performance by using supplied or measured figures for population coverage or geographical coverage, OpenSignal takes the more pragmatic approach of cataloguing availability — the raw amount of time that phones running the OpenSignal app are able to achieve and maintain a 4G connection. It gives better weighting to networks with strong indoor penetration, but Telstra and Optus' new 700MHz indoor-friendly networks don't give them an advantage over the 77.61 per cent 4G availability of Vodafone, with the nation's number one and two telcos sitting at 76.27 per cent and 73.40 per cent respectively.

Telstra flies ahead with its overall download speeds, with a strong advantage in 4G downloads thanks to a widely distributed carrier aggregation 4GX network achieving 10 per cent faster average speeds than its two competitors — on Telstra, you'll get average download speeds of 17.09Mbps while Optus achieves 12.87Mbps and Vodafone ranks third with 12.79Mbps. The overall results are mirrored in 4G standalone tests with Telstra/Optus/Vodafone posting 23.60Mbps, 19.18Mbps and 18.49Mbps results respectively. All three networks were effectively equal when it came to 3G downloads, with Telstra/Optus/Vodafone achieving 3.95Mbps, 4.35Mbps and 4.76Mbps respectively.

Latency — the measure of the time it takes for a packet of data to travel between two points on a network — is dominated by Vodafone on the 3G network, and drawn between Optus and Vodafone for 4G. Vodafone's 72.02ms average on 3G and 54.71ms average on 4G are slightly ahead of close second place Optus' 87.39ms and 51.88ms, but both beat Telstra's 94.47ms and 56.26ms results.

This report catalogued 15,594,150 datapoints from 7904 OpenSignal app users in Australia in the period of February 1 to April 30 this year, and is the first where the company measures competitors on availability rather than outright geographical or population coverage. That's a more relevant statistic for metropolitan users on relatively congested mobile cell towers, but doesn't clearly represent the geographical coverage advantage of Telstra's almost-nation-spanning 2G and 3G mobile networks.

OpenSignal is careful to say that there are no bad mobile networks in Australia; no matter which carrier you're on, you're going to achieve a relatively fast result. Australia's number one and number three carriers Telstra and Vodafone are constantly developing new technologies and buying new portions of mobile spectrum as they're made available, and Telstra is set to crack the 1000Mbps download barrier on 4G this year. OpenSignal also reports on mobile networking coverage within 10 other regions including the UK and USA.

"The country has always tottered on the bleeding edge of mobile networking, but it's so far in front of the industry it often has to wait for mobile device technology to catch up. OpenSignal is taking its first close-up look at the networks of the land down under, comparing the mobile performance of its three major operators: Optus, Telstra and Vodafone. What we found was a country that definitely lives up to its reputation for mobile innovation." [OpenSignal]

Image credit: OpenSignal

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