The quality of mobile network experience helps explain churn in Brazil

Opensignal has looked at the mobile experience of our smartphone users that changed their mobile operator in Brazil. In this analysis, we found that those Leavers that switched operators, or churned, generally had a significantly worse mobile experience before they switched, compared with the average experience of all users on their original mobile operator’s network. For example, on Opensignal data, on all four operators — Claro, Oi, TIM and Vivo — Leavers saw lower 4G Availability and a greater amount of time with no signal before switching.

However, due to large differences in the quality of the mobile network between Brazilian operators, Leavers is more mixed. Sometimes users saw an improvement in their experience on their new mobile operator and sometimes they failed to see one. For example, Claro and Oi’s Leavers saw better 4G Availability — the average proportion of time Opensignal users spend with a 4G or better connection on each operator's network — and a lower time with no signal but TIM Leavers missed out. Similarly, while Oi, TIM and Vivo’s churners experienced faster download speeds after they moved, those Leavers switching from Claro did not.

The Leavers on the four major Brazilian operators spent significantly more time with no signal than the average reported for all our users on those networks. The difference varied from 1.3 times more on Vivo’s network to 1.6 times more on Claro, Oi and TIM’s networks.

Also, we observed that Leavers spent less time, on average, connected to 4G or better services than their network average. Our users on Oi who decided to change their networks saw the biggest difference in 4G Availability of 4.1 percentage points, while those on Vivo saw the smallest gap of 2.6 percentage points between their 4G Availability experience and the average for all users. 

Opensignal compared Leavers’ experience in the last 30 days on their original mobile operator’s network against their experience during the first 30 days following the switch to their new operator. After the change, we saw significant improvements in terms of percentage of Time with no signal for those customers who decided to leave Claro and Oi — by 1 and 1.7 percentage points respectively. But the was no statistically significant change for those users who churned from TIM and Vivo.

Looking at 4G Availability, Claro and Oi Leavers saw significant increases in their time spent connected to 4G services within the first 30 days on their new operator — by 4.5 and 14.6 percentage points respectively. By contrast, TIM and Vivo Leavers witnessed declines in their time on 4G by 7.6 and 1.9 percentage points respectively.

As TIM won the Opensignal 4G Availability award outright in our last Brazil report on mobile network experience in Brazil, ahead of second-placed Vivo, it’s unsurprising that switching from TIM and Vivo would result in less time spent on 4G.

Opensignal also analyzed download speeds as experienced by our users. Before switching, we observed either no or very little statistically significant differences between the average download speeds seen by Leavers compared to the average speeds experienced by all users on the same network.

However, after switching we saw substantial boosts in the average download speeds experienced by Leavers on their new operators in the case of users that left Oi, TIM and Vivo — by 55.3%, 14% and 7.4% respectively. Claro’s churners were the only ones who experienced declines in their average download speeds, by 24.1%. Claro was the sole winner of our Download Speed Experience award in our last report, significantly ahead of its competitors, so the difference in average download speeds on Claro Leavers’ new operator is as expected.

Mobile network experience is important to retain customers, as well as acquire new users

Across all metrics analyzed — Time with no signal, 4G Availability and Download speed — Oi Leavers observed the most significant improvements. Notably, the operator lagged behind its competitors in our last report on mobile network experience in Brazil. This is likely linked to Oi’s recent financial struggles. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the company is selling its mobile assets (spectrum, mobile customers, cell sites), to its national competitors — Claro, TIM and Vivo. Oi is hoping to finalize the transaction by the end of 2021 or at the beginning of 2022, as Brazilian authorities are yet to approve this transaction. The Brazilian mobile market is about to face major changes. Aside from Oi’s selling its mobile unit, the government plans to run a 5G spectrum auction, which will enable the winners to deploy 5G networks in 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz, 3.5 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands.

With additional investment in the network infrastructure and the new mobile assets to be secured in the near future — both from the 5G spectrum tender and from Oi’s partition — Brazilian operators have a chance to greatly improve the mobile experience on their networks in the coming years. This, in turn, could become a competitive advantage to help them retain their existing customers and attract new ones.