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OpenSignal: Maxis leads in 4G LTE coverage, U Mobile fastest 4G & 3G network

OpenSignal released its State of Mobile Networks (March 2016) report for Malaysia today. Based on latest data, Maxis leads in 4G LTE coverage, while U Mobile has the fastest 4G & 3G network in Malaysia.

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Drawing on 40 million (39,621,885) data samples collected by 21,000 (21,109) OpenSignal users between Dec. 1 and Feb. 29, the report looks at the network performance of Maxis, Celcom Axiata, Digi, and U Mobile. All data were collected from users of the OpenSignal mobile app for Android or iOS.

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Summary of the State of Mobile Networks (March 2016) report for Malaysia:

4G LTE Network Coverage- How long each users were within 4G coverage area
– Maxis users connected to 4G LTE network 70% of the time
– Neither customers of Celcom, DiGi nor U Mobile scored higher than 58%

Average download speed accross all networks (2G/3G/4G)
Maxis: 5.2Mbps
U Mobile: 4.73Mbps
– Digi: 4.36Mbps
– Celcom: 3.85Mbps

Average 4G download speeds
U Mobile: 13.8Mbps
Maxis: 13Mbps
– Digi 12.44Mbps
– Celcom: 9.94Mbps

Average 3G download speeds
U Mobile: 3.26Mbps
Digi: 2.74Mbps
– Maxis: 2.55Mbps
– Celcom: 2.4Mbps

3G Network Latency
Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in the network. Lower score means better network.
Maxis: 100.16ms
U Mobile: 104.31ms
– Digi: 123.58ms
– Celcom: 125.89ms

4G Network Latency
Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in the network. Lower score means better network.
Maxis: 52.23ms
U Mobile: 52.38ms
– Digi: 55.34ms
– Celcom: 66.16ms

Full Analysis by OpenSignal:

Malaysia’s first LTE networks came online in 2013, and in the intervening three years, the country’s four major operators have built out a 4G infrastructure that’s kept pace with the rest of the world. The Tiger Cub economy is delivering 4G speeds just short of the global average of 13.5 Mbps, and its operators are already expanding network capacity, boosting speeds with new technology and offering new 4G services like voice over LTE. The one area where Malaysia still trails globally is overall 4G coverage.

Of Malaysia’s four major service providers, Maxis in particular distinguished itself in the three months of testing for this report. It won awards in two of the six categories we measured outright, and tied for the lead in three others. Most notably it won OpenSignal’s award for the LTE network with the highest level of coverage. We track network availability through a metric called time coverage, which measures the proportion of time users can see a signal on a particular network. In the case of Maxis, 4G time coverage was 70%. Neither Celcom, DiGi nor U Mobile scored higher than 58%.

In terms of speed, operators were more closely matched. We measured average 4G download speeds for U Mobile at 13.8 Mbps, Maxis at 13 Mbps and DiGi at 12.4 Mbps, but the overlapping statistical margins on those results produced a three-way draw between the operators. U Mobile, however, won OpenSignal’s award for fastest 3G network. U Mobile had an average 3G download speed of 3.3 Mbps, beating out all of its competitors even though it shares 3G infrastructure with Maxis outside of urban markets.

When we factored in both 3G and 4G networks and their respective coverages, though, Maxis clearly came out on top. Because of its superior LTE coverage, its customers were able to connect to its faster 4G network more often, pushing their average overall download speeds to 5.2 Mbps.

A closer look at the capital
For this report we also examined network performance in Malaysia’s Klang Valley, which encompasses Kuala Lumpur and surrounding cities, and found the region generally followed national trends for speed while improving on network availability. Maxis continued to dominate in coverage providing an LTE signal 77% of the time in the Klang Valley. Celcom and DiGi battled for second place with time coverage metrics around 66%.

While Celcom did quite poorly on the national level — finishing last or tied for last in every category — its networks performed much better in Malaysia’s economic center. In addition to improved 4G coverage in the Klang Valley, it shared the regional award for fastest 3G network with U Mobile with both operators averaging about 3 Mbps. Celcom still couldn’t match its peers in LTE speeds in the capital region where we saw the same three-way draw we found on the national level. U Mobile, Maxis and DiGi all averaged between 13 and 14 Mbps in 4G download speeds, compared to Celcom’s average of 10.6 Mbps. When we calculated combined 3G and 4G regional performance, though, Maxis again emerged as the overall speed-award winner. Due to its superior LTE coverage, Maxis’s overall average speed in the Klang Valley came in at 6.5 Mbps, beating all of its competitors by nearly a megabit.

What the future holds
The final metric we calculated was network latency, which is essentially the time it takes data to make a round trip through the network. It’s an important measure of how responsive a 3G or 4G service is. A low latency connection means web pages begin to load faster after the initial click, and subscribers experience less delay when using real-time communications apps. On the 4G side of the network, we again had a three-way tie for the lowest-latency award between DiGi, Maxis and U-Mobile. This metric will be particularly important to DiGi as that operator plans to launch a commercial voice over LTE service this year. Reduced latency will mean better quality calls.

In addition to VoLTE, DiGi is rolling out new LTE networks using old 2G spectrum in the 1800 MHz band. That upgrade effectively doubles its overall 4G capacity and thanks to an LTE technology called carrier aggregation, could double the speeds available over some connections. Maxis is also expanding 4G into the 1800 MHz band, but has gone one step further. It’s upgrading its networks with LTE-Advanced technologies, which — theoretically at least — should give it the most powerful 4G network in Malaysia. As these new technologies make it to more cities and spread to the country’s other operators, Malaysia may no longer merely keep up with global LTE trends. It could start exceeding them.

About Kugan

Kugan is the founder of MalaysianWireless. He has been observing the mobile industry since 2003. Connect with him on Twitter: @scamboy