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The hot-off-the-press ‘State of Mobile Networks: East Africa’ report is our first look at the Great lake’s region mobile networking landscape using Open Signal. The app continually runs tests to measure the real world experience users receive. Instead of relying on user-initiated or drive-test simulations, they are able to paint a holistic picture of network’s performance through their background tests and crowdsourcing techniques — all the while protecting the privacy of our millions of active OpenSignal users. Here are the highlights.

  • Vodacom Tanzania wins overall speed crown on combined 3G and 4G strength and also best 4G speeds
  • Safaricom takes the lead in the 4G up-link speedtests
  • Africell and MTN Uganda are neck to neck in the best 3G speedtests
  • Tigo Rwanda scoops best overall latency award

Points to Note

  1. Not all networks are included in the final report due to several factors including; number of data subscribers, coverage footprint, few data points, which means the Open signal tool will not have enough information to record.
  2. Data points were measured for a period of 6 months (1st May 2016- 1st October 2016)
  3. List of networks sampled in table at the end of this post
  4. For each country one big city was sampled as follows;
  • Kenya- Nairobi
  • Uganda- Kampala
  • Rwanda- Kigali
  • Burundi- Bujumbura
  • Tanzania- Dar es Salaam

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Vodacom TZ takes the lead in 4G speed tests and Overall speed test

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OpenSignal measured average 4G LTE download speeds on Vodcom’s LTE network at an impressive 23.0 Mbps. The Tanzania telecom firm also managed to take the overall network performance, scooping a 9.2 Mbps in final speed tests. Africell Uganda, was a fast overall follower and MTN Uganda in third position.

Ugandan carriers seem to have mastered the ‘art of 3G’

While Africel and MTN Uganda performed better than other networks in 3G scoring 5.9 Mbps and 5.2 Mbps respectively. Zantel Tanzania comes in third position with 4.9 Mbps speeds. Ugandan networks seems to have perfected their art in tweaking their 3G networks despite being a landlocked country, Even Airtel Uganda holds a strong position in the top 10.

Safaricom’s 4G uplink speed tests are impressive and Tigo Rwanda wins the latency race

The Safaricom network will upload your files and content way faster than any network in the region averaging at 7.8 Mbps. Latency is a utility used to test the reachability of a website on the network and a measure of the round-trip time for messages sent from your device to a destination computer/website and back. Despite being landlocked, Tigo Rwanda scored the best in Ping time overall at 123ms.

METHODOLOGY

OpenSignal data is collected from regular consumer smartphones and recorded under conditions of normal usage. As opposed to drive-test data, which simulates the typical user experience by employing a limited set of devices to measure networks in a small number of locations, OpenSignal takes measurements from millions of smartphones owned by normal people who have downloaded the OpenSignal app.

They can measure how signal and speed change in particular areas over long periods of time. The same place that received a stellar 4G connection at one time could turn into a dead zone a few hours later if nearby cell towers become congested.

According to OpenSignal, before any data is included in an analysis it is subject to a detailed quality assurance procedure. For example, they use a series of tests and filters to determine if a device is operating correctly and reporting accurate values. In addition, they have established thresholds on the amount of data they must collect to ensure that their metrics meet conditions of statistical significance. Finally any statistical analysis contains a certain margin of error, which we factor into all of their country level reports. In some cases, that results in statistical draws for categories such as speed or availability and we make this clear in our reports.

You can find the full Methodology Report here.

For this particular report, over 300 million data-points were collected from users in the East African region during the period: 1st May 2016- 1st October 2016. All data has been collected from users of the OpenSignal mobile app for Android or iOS.

For every metric they calculate the statistical confidence interval and displayed in maps and graphs. When confidence intervals overlap for a certain metric, Open Signal can’t actually be sure which of the overlapping operators has the best performance. For this reason some metrics have multiple operator winners when we’ve judged that the data is too close to call a victory.

NETWORK SPEED COMPARISON (Top 10)

DOWNLOAD SPEED OVERALL

  • DOWNLOAD SPEED 4G (Mbps): This metric shows the average download speed experienced by a user across all of an operator's networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE coverage tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend much more time connected to slower 3G networks.

DOWNLOAD SPEED 4G

  • DOWNLOAD SPEED 4G (Mbps): This metric shows the average download speed on each network on 4G (LTE) connections.
  • UPLOAD 4G

DOWNLOAD SPEED 3G

  • Download Speed 3G (Mbps): This metric shows the average download speed on each network on 3G connections.
  • UPLOAD 3G

NETWORK LATENCY COMPARISON

LATENCY 4G

  • LATENCY 4G: This metric shows the average latency on each network on 4G (LTE) connections. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.
  • Two

LATENCY 3G

  • LATENCY 3G: This metric shows the average latency on each network on 3G connections. Latency, measured in milliseconds, is the delay data experiences as it travels between points in the network. A lower score in this metric is a sign of a more responsive network.

ANALYSIS

Roll out of LTE in East Africa continues to steam ahead as mobile giant Vodacom faces off other telecom giants in the region like Airtel and MTN and other competitors for the fastest speeds. In terms of performance by country, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda led the pac, but as we said the sample data used was based only per major city in a specific country within the region. We also have other 4G LTE players who never managed to make the final speedtest measurement like Smile Communications, for reasons we explained at the beginning of this post. South Sudan was omitted as well due to few data points to come to any logical or comparable analysis. These OpenSignal results also show us that the least performing countries were; Burundi, Kenya and Uganda represented by Smart Mobile Burundi, Airtel Kenya and Smart Telecom respectively. (See table below)

For this report, it should be noted that in April this year, OpenSignal made some adjustments to both the way they collect data from their smartphone apps and the methodology they use to parse that data. The update allowed then to take more measurements, examine new types of network metrics and hone the precision of the measurements they’ve always collected, helping them isolate the typical consumer mobile experience more effectively (check out more details on their recent blog post). The changes haven’t affected the overall rankings of networks in East Africa or around the world, but for sake of analytical rigor no direct comparison between results collected from the two different methodologies was done.

While we examine the regional wide 3G and 4G performance of the East African Block’s big operators. Techjaja also took its first glimpse at how 4G networks stacked up in the country’s respective capitals and largest population in those areas.

4G vs. 3G

Vodacom Tanzania took the Open Signal speed award overall and 4G with Africell winning top honors leading the 3G category, followed closely by MTN Uganda. Tests on Vodacom’s LTE network averaged download speeds of 23.0 Mbps. Safaricom Kenya wasn’t far behind in our 4G measurements, though, averaging 18.1 Mbps per connection. Meanwhile Tigo Tanzania came in last in the OpenSignal tests, averaging 10.9 Mbps. Safaricom managed to maintian high uplink speeds followed by Vodacom at 7.8 and 3.4 Mbps respectively. Thanks to it high performing HSPA 3G network, Africell took that honor followed by MTN Uganda.

The tests clocked average Africell 3G speeds at 5.9 Mbps, while the measurements for both MTN and Zantel connections came in at 5.2 Mbps and 4.9 Mbps respectively.

The final metric that was tracked was network latency, which measures the reaction of a network. A lower latency connection means data makes the round trip between a smartphone and the network much more quickly, enabling more responsive internet browsing and producing less lag time in communications apps. Tigo Rwanda won the 4G latency award with an average response time of 27 milliseconds, while HITS Tanzania came in number one for the 3G latency prize with response times just over 125ms.

FULL TABLE OF RESULTS AND MAPS

Table

NoCountryCityMNOOverall (DL Mbps)Latency-Overall3G (DL Mbps)3G (UL Mbps)Latency-3G4G (DL Mbps)4G (UL Mbps)Latency-4G
1KenyaNairobiSafaricom 5.62873.51.733018.17.830
2KenyaNairobiOrange Kenya1.93681.90.5368
3KenyaNairobiAirtel Kenya1.95081.90.7508
4UgandaKampalaAfricell8.11295.91.315514.22.645
5UgandaKampalaMTN Uganda6.52455.21.227115.42.335
6UgandaKampalaAirtel Uganda3.51533.51.6154
7UgandaKampalaSmart Telecom1.93861.90.7386
8RwandaKigaliTigo Rwanda5.81233.6114914.22.127
9RwandaKigaliAirtel Rwanda3.61493.30.8150
10RwandaKigaliMTN Rwanda3.223031.3242
11TanzaniaDar es SalaamVodacom9.24643.11.6612233.476
12TanzaniaDar es SalaamZantel4.91284.91.3128
13TanzaniaDar es SalaamTigo Tanzania3.23701.30.644910.93.255
14TanzaniaDar es SalaamAirtel Tanzania2.52252.51.8225
15TanzaniaDar es SalaamHITS Tanzania2.51252.51.3125
16BurundiBujumburaHITS Burundi3.72253.70.5225
17BurundiBujumburaSmart Mobile1.54641.50.5464

Maps

You can use the Map below to search for the desired city and compare results. NOTE that results change the more you zoom into a particular city.

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