In January 2021, the number of internet users in Indonesia surpassed 200 million. As a mobile-first market, 195.3 million (or 96.4%) of these users access the internet via mobile phones — either on mobile networks or Wifi. Generally, smartphones switch automatically between cellular and Wifi data but it’s also possible for a user to choose which network to use. When a smartphone is left to choose automatically it will usually select Wifi instead of cellular, but Opensignal’s new analysis shows that 4G often offers a better experience.
Perhaps surprisingly, 4G offers significantly better download speeds than Wifi for mobile users across Indonesia. Nationally, the download speeds experienced by smartphone users on 4G averaged 15.1 Mbps which is about 25% faster than most Wifi — private and public hotspots — and more than twice as fast as using Mifi devices. Our users on public Wifi and private Wifi saw similar experiences with speeds statistically tied — just above 12 Mbps. On the other hand, users’ experience on Mifi devices and 3G averaged 6.8 Mbps and 4.9 Mbps, respectively. The slower speeds seen using 3G highlight the importance of continuing to expand 4G Availability across Indonesia.
Mifi devices — often called portable hotspots — share a cellular connection using Wifi across one or more devices that can include smartphones, PCs, cameras, portable media players, tablets or any other Wifi-capable device. Therefore, it’s unsurprising to see the average Wifi download speed speeds when connected to Mifi devices (6.8 Mbps) fall in a range between 3G (4.9 Mbps) and 4G (15.1 Mbps).
The national findings are echoed in the regional results, where we compared users’ download speeds on cellular networks and Wifi (Mifi, public Wifi and other Wifi combined) across Indonesia’s 12 major regions. We found that users enjoyed faster download speeds on 4G than on Wifi in every single region, but with varying differences. Our users in Western New Guinea observed the most remarkable difference: They experienced 58% faster download speeds on 4G than on Wifi, followed by their peers in Kalimantan (53%) and Jawa Timur (51%). Our users in a further six regions saw a greater difference in experience between 4G and Wifi compared to that seen nationally: Sulawesi (39%), Lesser Sunda Island (34%), Yogyakarta (32%), Jawa Tengah (32%), Maluku (29%) and Sumatra (28%).
Notably, our users in the Lesser Sunda Islands and Jakarta Raya saw the fastest average download speeds when connected to 4G with speeds just above 18 Mbps. However, users in Jakarta observed the smallest difference in experience between 4G and Wifi (4% faster on 4G), followed by Banten (6%) and Jawa Barat (10%).
Meanwhile, the download speeds experienced by our users on 3G were lower than Wifi across all 12 regions. Users experienced average download speeds ranging between 4.2 Mbps to 6.5 Mbps.
In this analysis, we also assessed the time spent connected to Wifi (Time on Wifi) and cellular data services (3G and 4G). We found that, nationally, our users spent 92% of their time connected to 4G data services (4G Availability) and 96.3% time connected to a 3G or 4G cellular data service (i.e. 3G/4G Availability). While cellular is available almost all of the time, our users connect to Wifi only approximately one-third of the time (33.6%). In effect, Indonesian users spent 2.9 times greater time connected to 3G and 4G cellular networks than Wifi. This was also reflected in our regional analysis, with varying differences between the time spent connected to Wifi and cellular data services. Note, when smartphone users are connected to Wifi they usually continue to be connected to cellular networks.
Across 12 regions the Time on Wifi was highest in Jawa Timur (41.8%), and lowest in Sumatra (26.4%). Meanwhile, in Jakarta Raya, our users saw the highest 4G Availability of 94.6%, followed by Jawa Barat (94%). Our users in six other regions saw 4G Availability above 90%, unlike those in Western New Guinea (88.9%), Sulawesi (88.9%), Maluku (86.6%) as well as Kalimantan, where users reported the lowest 4G Availability of 85.8%. With none of the 4G Availability scores falling below 85%, it means Indonesia users were able to latch onto a 4G data service more than 8.5 out of 10 times regardless of the region they are located in.
In Indonesia, a considerable proportion of the population still relies on old 3G network technology. And these users can benefit greatly by shifting to using 4G. If operators wish to offer the best mobile experience they should accelerate 4G deployments and where possible re-use older 3G spectrum bands for more modern 4G, or 5G, technologies that are efficient and will help improve users’ network experience. As operators add more capacity to their 4G networks, smartphone users will continue to see a better experience on cellular than using Wifi. Since the last time we compared Indonesia's experience on Wifi and cellular against each other in 2018, users have seen notable improvements in their download speeds. The average download speeds on Wifi are 50% faster this time, while those on 4G have increased more, and are now over 65% faster than they were three years ago.
However, Wifi and cellular are complementary and will continue to co-exist in order to enhance connectivity. For example, there will always be some indoor locations where Wifi will work better, as mobile signals may not reach inside some buildings. However, mobile is available in many more locations and much more of the time than Wifi. As fixed networks expand, Wifi will remain a useful way to share fast fiber connections across many devices. Both cellular and Wifi will be important to provide affordable connectivity across Indonesia, which will help drive positive social and economic outcomes, especially in locations where the cost of fiber to the premise (FTTP) deployment is prohibitive.
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