The difference between Australian rural and urban mobile network experience

Opensignal’s latest analysis of Australian’s mobile network experience reveals striking differences in the experience of our users across the breadth of the country using the three major operators: Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. We have used geographic definitions created by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to analyze users’ mobile experience in urban and rural Australia. We analyzed all the main operators in the first three categories, but only Optus and Telstra in the Remote and Very Remote Australia locales, because Vodafone does not provide comparable availability to the other two operators in the most remote rural areas.

In Australia’s largest cities, our users on Telstra experience a significantly faster average download speed of 51.6 Mbps compared with Optus (39.2 Mbps) and Vodafone (36 Mbps). This experience is reflected in Opensignal’s most recent Australia Mobile Network Experience Report.

However, with increasing distance from densely populated areas, the Download Experience drops markedly for both users on Telstra and Vodafone — a decrease of 39% and 61% respectively moving from Major Cities to Inner Regional Australia. While Optus users also see a drop in their experience, it is not as great at 15%. In Inner, Outer, Remote and Very Remote Australia the Download Speed Experience of our users on Optus and Telstra is neck and neck, with little or no difference. But the experience of our users on Vodafone falls further behind the others. 

4G technology is superior to 3G networks in almost every way from download and upload speeds to its typical latencies — the responsiveness of the experience — and so the time users spend on 4G is an important indicator of other measures of mobile network experience. Importantly, using a measure of time connected focuses on where users are likely to care the most, because it’s where they spend their time! Opensignal reports this measure of time as 4G Availability.

In Australia’s cities, our users experience very similar levels of 4G Availability on all three networks. However, outside the cities, the time users spend connected to 4G falls markedly, more so for Vodafone users than for those connecting with Telstra or Optus. This difference reflects the business and technology strategies of Australia’s major operators: Telstra aspires to offer national service focused on geographic reach, while Vodafone has historically focused on covering population centres — not the greatest number of square kilometers served — but Vodafone has been investing greatly to improve the reach of its service, and Optus’s approach has fallen somewhere in between.

Opensignal’s analysis of the user experience in rural and urban Australia quantifies the results Australia’s major operator strategies have had on the mobile network experience of Australians across the country.