In the past few months we have seen how the COVID-19 pandemic affected users’ mobile network experience across the globe. For the most part, mobile networks have been highly resilient. We previously observed mobile users spending an increasing amount of time connected to Wifi networks during the crisis, but also mobile connection speeds decrease in some countries, generally due to an increase in data consumption.
However, over the last couple of weeks, many of our users have seen their mobile network experience slowly improve, suggesting that smartphone users might have seen the worst of the negative impact from the pandemic on their mobile experience.
In this insight, we analyzed the amount of time that smartphone users spent connected to Wifi in the past four months, as well as the change in 4G Download Speeds experienced by our users across more than 40 countries, to understand how mobile network experience compares to pre-lockdown levels.
Time on Wifi decreases as people are spending more time outside their homes
Now that governments have started easing their restrictions, we have seen Time on Wifi begin to decrease from their peak values in several countries, mostly in Europe and Asia. Interestingly, Asia was the only region where we haven’t observed Time on Wifi increase significantly across the countries we analyzed.
However, even though governments have relaxed lockdown measures in most countries, we’ve not seen Time on Wifi return to pre-crisis levels, indicating that people continue to spend more time at home than they did before the pandemic.
4G Download Speeds have stabilized across most countries
Since the beginning of May we have observed mobile speeds slowly increase towards pre-lockdown levels in many countries — such as Italy, Malaysia and Qatar — where 4G Download Speeds previously dropped in March.
In April, we analyzed 4G Download Speeds across several regions and observed only relatively small changes in users’ experience in a few countries. Generally, we noted that mobile operators offered resilient services for their mobile users during this unprecedented situation, although a few countries showed some drops in speeds. We identified a number of drivers that have likely contributed to those speed drops, including increasing mobile data consumption, operators relaxing data limits, changes in the time and location of users’ mobile usage, as well as preemptive measures adopted by operators to ensure continuity of service on their networks.
Hong Kong was the first country where we saw a significant increase in Time on Wifi. Our users in Hong Kong are still connecting to Wifi networks more often compared to the pre-pandemic levels of early January when they spent 55% of the time connected to Wifi networks.
South Korea and Taiwan didn’t show any meaningful variation in Time on Wifi. However, Taiwan saw consistent — if not higher — 4G Download Speeds during the entire period of the analysis, while South Korea showed a small dip since the end of April, with the average 4G Download Speed now 6.3% lower compared to the pre-lockdown level.
Starting in April, our users in Singapore saw a noticeable increase in Time on Wifi from 56.3% up to 70.8%, and also experienced 4G Download Speeds slightly lower than before the lockdowns.
In Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam we observed decreases in Time on Wifi over the last few weeks. On the other hand, when looking at the other metric, our users in Vietnam experienced stable 4G Download Speed throughout the period, while our users in Australia and Malaysia have seen speeds drop at the end of March, and slowly rise back towards normal levels in the last couple of weeks.
EUROPE, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
In our measurements, Time on Wifi in most countries of this region started to decrease from the peak values which were reached during the month of April. Germany and Bulgaria appear to be at the forefront of the trend with Time on Wifi back to pre-lockdown levels. We have also seen 4G Download Speeds rise back to normal levels in all countries except South Africa and the Netherlands. In South Africa our users are still experiencing 4G Download Speeds 14.8% lower compared to the median value for the first ten weeks of the year, while our users in the Netherlands have most recently seen for the first time speeds decrease more than 5% compared to pre-lockdown levels.
SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA
We observed some of the largest increases in Time on Wifi in this region, with the metric showing limited signs of going back to normal levels in recent weeks. In particular, Chile and Peru still show Time on Wifi values very close to their April peaks.
On the other hand, mobile speeds showed different patterns throughout the region. Costa Rica and Ecuador saw some impact on their 4G Download Speed earlier than the other countries in the region but moved back to normal levels by the end of April. Our users in Chile, Peru and Uruguay experienced some drops in 4G Download Speed starting in March, and their experience still has yet to fully recover. In Argentina and Brazil, we saw 4G Download Speeds stabilize in April, with a slow increase in the past few weeks.
Canada, Mexico and the USA showed a similar pattern to most other countries in Time on Wifi, as they saw the metric increase since the countries introduced restrictions. But while Mexico’s Time on Wifi has been mostly flat around its peak since April, Canada and the USA saw their values steadily decrease after the first four weeks.
However, we have seen different trends in 4G Download Speed across the three countries: while the USA has been mostly flat throughout the period, Mexico has seen its 4G Download Speed stable up to the end of March and slightly increase compared to pre-lockdown levels since then. Our Canadian users, on the other hand, have seen their 4G Download Speeds decrease very slightly in the last few weeks.
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