German mobile phone users are jealous of Austria and Switzerland. According to the study “State of Mobile Networks DACH” by the mobile crowdsourcing company Tutela from June 2020, the advantage of neighboring countries is tangible in a country comparison:
The average download speed in Switzerland is 30 Mbit / s, in Austria 24.7 Mbit / s and in Germany 14.7 Mbit / s. Mind you, these are the average values of all three mobile radio networks tested per country. The comparison of the respective front-runner and taillights among themselves therefore shows an even greater need to catch up: Swisscom offers an average download speed of 38 Mbit / s – almost 21 Mbit / s more than at Telekom and a good 25 Mbit / s more than at Vodafone.
The advantage of the neighbors is also clear when comparing the time that mobile customers spend in the 3G or 4G (LTE) network: Switzerland performs best here, customers had an LTE connection there almost 90 percent of the time . In Germany, however, this was only the case almost 70 percent of the time.
In Germany, Telekom submitted and won in four of the five categories measured. In detail this means:
- the best result with Excellent Consistent Quality *
- the best result with Core of Consistent Quality *
- the highest average download speed of 17.2 Mbit / s
- the highest average upload speed of 7.8 Mbit / s
In the latency category (measured in one direction), victory went to O2nd with an average latency of 14.8 milliseconds, compared to 16.8 milliseconds for the Telecom.
Here too, the comparison between the respective front-runner and taillight sharpens the picture: Swisscom customers have an LTE connection at least 91 percent of the time. O is located in Germany2nd ahead and offers LTE around 73 percent of the time. Telekom only manages a good 60 percent. Vodafone lies between 65 percent. However, these numbers should be treated with caution: If you look at the entire mobile user experience, Telekom leads the field.
The use of mobile data is growing at a rapid pace of around 25-50 percent a year. Starting from 50 percent, the demand for mobile data is ten times greater after six years, and even 25 times after eight years. To find out how the networks should react to this challenge, it is worth comparing them to other countries, because some networks carry a lot more data than others. For example in Finland: The mobile phone customers there use their good network intensively and consume an average of almost 24 GB / month. The EU-wide average is 2.8 GB / month. If this could be replicated, mobile network operators would have enough capacity available to meet the demand growth of six years.
One reason for the poor results: Germany has one of the lowest number of LTE radio masts in the EU-28 in terms of number of users. Finland has 3.7 masts per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to 0.7 in Germany. However, due to technical reasons, the density of the radio masts is decisive for the performance of a mobile radio network: The cell capacity used rises steeply with increasing distance from the radio mast.
For example, if a user is at a quarter of the maximum range of the radio mast, he will only use about 3 percent of the capacity. At half the range this share rises to around 13 percent, at three quarters to 37 percent and on the edge it consumes almost the entire capacity. This is because the signal is weak at the edge of the cell and therefore the amount of information that can be encoded must be significantly reduced. In order to transport the same amount of information, the length of the transmission increases, which takes up more and more resources. When the radio masts are closer together, the signal levels at the edge of the cells are much higher – effectively the radio masts work at half or three quarters of the maximum range.
According to the experts at Tutela, medium download rates, for example, are not optimally suited to record the quality of the connection and thus the actual user experience. That’s why Tutela has built its tests and measurements so that they also record the actual performance – and not just the maximum. A good connection is a connection that allows users to do what they want to do: surf the web, mobile gaming, use apps, make phone calls, stream video, and video calls, for example.
In order to be able to objectively assess how well mobile networks allow their users to do these things, Tutela has developed a standard called Consistent Quality. Simply put, there are two sets of thresholds called Core and Excellent. A core connection is good enough for a set of application scenarios like SD video streaming, web browsing, email, and VOIP calls, but more demanding applications are likely to experience delays or buffering. When a connection reaches the Excellent standard, it is good enough for the group of the most demanding mobile use cases, such as HD group video calls or 1080p video streaming.
In terms of consistent quality, Austria leads the country comparison: Austria consistently offered its mobile phone subscribers the best mobile phone experience compared to Switzerland and Germany. 88 percent of the tests met the threshold values for Excellent Consistent Quality. This means that Austrian users could almost always stream 1080p videos, make HD video calls or play on mobile devices.
After Austria, Switzerland took second place with a share of 87.6 percent Excellent Consistent Quality. Germany follows with 78.5 percent Excellent Consistent Quality. These percentages are abstract, but in concrete terms mean that German mobile phone users were only able to use mobile applications to a limited extent in four out of five cases. In addition, the connection quality did not even reach the threshold values for core consistent quality in a good 5 percent of measurements in Germany.
“Mobile customers throughout the DACH region, especially those in Austria and Switzerland, have very good and consistent connections,” explains Tom Luke, Vice President at Tutela. “Although the focus is now shifting towards 5G delivery and the infrastructure and technology are being extensively renewed, users are likely to continue to enjoy a consistently high quality of user experience. It is important to keep them going in the coming year, especially as some frequency auctions are delayed, which could be an obstacle to 5G excellence. ”
For the report, Tutela evaluated 7.4 billion data sets of smartphone users from so-called common coverage areas in the DACH region. According to Tutela, common coverage areas are areas in which the majority of mobile network operators offer their services. The Tutela data that was evaluated for the report includes more than 83 million speed tests and 1.02 billion latency tests (measured in one direction), which were carried out between October 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 GDPR-compliant via mobile Crowdsourcing were collected. Three mobile radio networks were examined in each of the three countries.
The complete report is available for download free of charge.