3G and 4G-LTE showdown 2015: How fast are mobile data networks in Uganda?

Data speeds bendchmack kampala devices

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[/blockquote]We are no strangers with getting our hands dirty in the quest of finding who reigns in data speeds, we’ve done this before in 2013 where we published our finds on who had the fastest 4G-LTE network in Uganda, and today we make want to put 3G data speeds into the mix. With new players like Vodafone, and the fact that 3G was left out in the previous tests we decided to go the whole nine yards. The companies have upped each other on several data offers and it is clear that the competition among the Uganda’s major mobile networks — MTN, Orange/Africell, Smile, Smart Telecom, Airtel, Vodafone, and UTL— is reaching new heights of aggression. But one thing we often hear from these mobile carriers is how “good” their 3G or 4G LTE networks are.

These companies either have the highest number of data users, the largest data footprint, or the most data devices on the market. For customers, though, the only thing that matters about these data services is how much it’s going to cost them, and how fast it’s going to be.

“We executed these tests five times to calculate a fair average and maximum download speeds”

If you’re looking for guidance on the data prices,we already have tons of helpful information about carrier plan pricing here. But when it comes to data speeds, we recently conducted real-world download data tests to get a snapshot of how fast these networks are performing. These tests were carried out only in Kampala, in six separate locations, viz: City Center (CDB) near KCCA HQ, Ntinda, Wandegeya, Game Lugogo, Garden City and Clement Hill, where all carriers’ 3G and 4G LTE networks are active in similar network conditions, on the same day simultaneously.

Data speeds bendchmack kampala locationsLocations where tests were carried out

We executed these tests five times to calculate fair average and maximum download speeds on the respective carrier’s data modems, with all devices being wiped and reset beforehand, just like how you would receive them out of the box.

3G tests were done on: Africell, MTN, Airtel, Smart Telecom and UTL

4G-LTE tests were done on : MTN, Africell, Smart and Vodafone

It’s important to keep in mind that these tests are not comprehensive or exhaustive. Although we took measures to be as fair and thorough as possible, these results offer just a glimpse of the networks’ 3G and 4G LTE speeds with each carrier’s own approved devices. You can find more test details at the end of this post.

If you’re thinking about switching carriers, be sure to research how well the others perform in your particular area. And as always, let us know what you think in the reader comments below. Please note that our tests are for only download speeds, there are no upload speeds captured.

The fastest 3G networks in Uganda are 22 times faster than Smart Telecom

Hint: All Graphs below are interactive

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Average 3G speeds per location

[/blockquote] Africell and MTN performed well in both 3G and 4G in comparison to each other, with an overall average download speed of 6 Mbps and 13 Mbps in 3G and 4G LTE respectively. Unfortunately, Smart Telecom and UTL’s 3G speeds fell behind the others and consistently clocked low rates at every trial. The results further show that the fastest 3G networks in Uganda (MTN and Africell) are 22 times faster than Smart Telecom.  Airtel Uganda came with an  average download speed of 2 Mbps while UTL was half that a value.

Overall 3G Download speeds

[blockquote][/blockquote] Note: Longer bars indicate better performance On the 4G-LTE side of things, new player Vodafone registered dissatisfactory results compared to the competition, scoring a maximum of 5 Mbps on average. There were some cases where operators like Vodafone had no or poor 4G coverage in areas like Wandegeya and Ntinda which affected their overall score. Smile Communication’s low data throughput values can be attributed to many factors that we’ve previously reported. [blockquote]

Average 4G speeds per location

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Overall 4G LTE Download speeds

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Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

 

“Africell has sofar managed to maintain the data speeds Orange left behind”

All in all, Africell has sofar managed to keep up the data speeds Orange left, with a very slight edge over Data speeds bendchmack kampala devicesMTN. Uganda’s biggest telecom company is surely giving Africell a run for its money when it comes to data speeds. In addition, while Vodafone remained the slowest 4G LTE carrier in the areas we did our tests, it’s delta in load times wasn’t that much slower.

We can confidently say that if it’s speed that you are looking for, MTN and Africell are a better bet all in all. Again, data speeds depend on many variables, including your location and time of day. What you personally experience from these networks may differ from the results shown above. Furthermore, all carriers are working continuously to broaden and speed up their 3G and 4G- LTE coverage, so don’t be surprised if these results change in the near future.

 

You can find the details of methodology, tools and all results here.

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[toggle title=”Tests details”]In our previous smack-down, we used Ookla’s Speedtest.net app to measure download speeds, we’ve now made some changes and adopted the use of Nemo tools, DU Meter & Filezilla. The Ookla app limits in the size of the file you have to download and we wanted no restrictions. For best results we used FTP (file transfer protocol) server for the tests, in which we downloaded a media file of about 400MB for LTE and 100 MB for 3G with several repetitions. The files were located on a server that is external to all networks. [/toggle]
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Note: These tests where independently conducted solely by the techjaja team, as per our ethics statement NO telecom or any other agents of any telecom company in Uganda sponsored these tests.

 

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  • Mukonzi

    I’ve actually have all and to me Smile is the most consistent and true to payment made! MTN though can reach such speeds is unreliable!

    • Jerry K

      You shd then try Vodafone they have great net

  • So you are saying Africell has better 3G speeds than MTN, but MTN beats them at 4G LTE?

    • Roger Bambino

      According to the tests that Wht it seems like… MTN can hit Max speeds than Africell since their current LTE TD implementation Africell up to 65mbps and Africell is 60 Mbps. So the results don’t surprise me…. Where mtn has 4g it’s pretty impressive

      • For once, lets give it for MTN 🙂

        • Roger Bambino

          Yap hats off they have pimped up their network tremendously in the past year…. With heavy investments here and there….

  • kakoma

    Interesting comparisons. Thanks for this

    • Roger Bambino

      Welcome boss…. Thanks for appreciating

  • Sarah H

    Wow these realists are spot on. I have had a similar experience with at least 3 of those mobile networks. Great work guys….