Although many Aussies wouldn't believe it if you told them, our country's 3G and 4G mobile networks are regularly ranked among the best in the world. In actual fact, South Korea is the only country that consistently ranks ahead of Australia for overall mobile network speed and 3G or 4G availability, and our average download smartphone download speeds have cracked 25Mbps for the first time ever. OpenSignal's sixth Global State of the Mobile Network report paints a glowing picture of Australia's mobile telecommunications infrastructure.
While it doesn't differentiate between the major carriers of Telstra, Optus and Vodafone, the sixth OpenSignal Global State of the Mobile Network report — which surveyed 12,356,994,498 regular latency, data network and speed test results of 822,556 users worldwide between May 1 and July 23 — shows that Australian iOS and Android smartphone users are well served by the mobile networks they use.
Australians had access to a 3G or 4G service for 94.6 per cent of the time they spent on their mobiles in this period, a metric only significantly beaten by the much smaller landmass and denser population of South Korea (98.54 per cent). That's a good result against the average worldwide availability of 82.14 per cent time spent on 3G and 4G, with many countries like India, Iraq and Ukraine still using predominantly 2G networks. 3G or better, OpenSignal says, lets telco customers "accomplish most basic smartphone tasks" at an acceptable speed.
The data overall, OpenSignal says, shows that a good mobile signal isn't hard to find in most parts of the world in 2016. Most countries scored availability results of 75 per cent or higher, and while there's a significant speed difference between the slowest 3G networks and the fastest 4G networks, even the lowest common denominator is adequate. In Australia, we're lucky enough to have constant advancements in network technology from major players Telstra and Vodafone, with continuing roll-outs of faster 4G standards and features like carrier aggregation.
South Korea ranks far ahead of the pack with an overall average network download speed of 41.34Mbps on its nearly completely 4G network, while Singapore and Hungary came second and third with 31.19Mbps and 26.15Mbps respectively. On average, the 95 countries surveyed in OpenSignal's data had access to 3G and 4G services at a 10.82Mbps speed, putting Australia's fourth-place result more than twice the average speed of the world.
Australia's fourth place showing at 25.01Mbps is the first time our networks have collectively scored above the 25Mbps threshold largely considered to mark the beginning of broadband-grade speeds worldwide, although the most recent report doesn't have the breakdown between carriers of the previous one where Telstra customers clocked 29Mbps on average. As a point of comparison, the average mobile network speeds in the US and UK are 12.34Mbps and 13.7Mbps respectively.
The prolific use of city-wide wi-fi networks has not taken off in Australia to anywhere near the extent that other countries have. Where a country like the Netherlands or China has telco customers spending a relatively large amount of time connected to a wi-fi network (70.05 and 63.16 per cent respectively), Australian smartphone users spend barely more than half their time — 50.99 per cent — connected to infrastructure wi-fi.
Telstra has its nationwide Air wi-fi network but only makes it broadly available to Telstra fixed-line broadband customers (although it's available to mobile customers until the end of March 2017 too), while Optus is spending $20 million on rolling out free Wi-Fi to shopping centres around the country. OpenSignal makes the point, though, that it doesn't have statistics on the amount of traffic used over wi-fi versus 3G or 4G.
The next OpenSignal report will be released in six months' time. [OpenSignal]