In our latest analysis, we compared the network experience of our Austrian smartphone users when they connected to mobile data services in urban and rural areas. Our study shows that users in Austria’s urban areas had significantly better mobile network experience than those in rural areas. They enjoyed faster download speeds, while also remaining connected to mobile networks for a higher amount of time. However, the differences were not always statistically significant at an operator level.
Overall average download speeds in Austria were 14.2% slower in rural areas than in the cities. Looking at average 5G download speeds, this difference was even greater in absolute terms — urban areas commanded a lead of 20.2 Mbps over rural areas, compared to 6 Mbps of a difference in the case of overall download speeds. However, in relative terms, the disparity between 5G download speeds in urban and rural areas was slightly smaller than in the case of overall speeds and the 5G to overall speeds uplift was similar. 5G download speeds seen by our users in rural areas were 11.4% lower than in urban areas. That’s because 5G download speeds saw a marginally higher uplift of 4.3 times in rural areas, compared to 4.2 times seen in urban areas.
On top of download speeds, network availability is essential to quantify users’ mobile network experience — especially between rural and urban areas. Looking at the Availability metric, our urban users connected to 3G or better services for 98.3% of the time - this is 1.5 percentage points higher than in the case of rural areas. Looking at these numbers from a different perspective — users in Austrian rural areas were connected to 2G services or were without a mobile signal for almost twice as much time (3.3%) as those in urban areas (1.7%). In terms of 5G Availability, our users with 5G devices and 5G subscriptions had active 5G connections for 15% of the time — almost half as much again as those in rural areas.
We observed a more varied picture when analyzing the rural-urban divide at the operator level in Austria — and how the experience of their subscribers differed between rural and urban areas.
In terms of overall Download Speed Experience, our A1 users saw the fastest average download speeds both in rural and urban areas, while 3 comes second in both.A1 observed the largest urban-rural divide, as its urban users enjoyed overall average speeds of 11 Mbps (25.5%) faster than their rural counterparts. The disparity between urban and rural areas was less substantial for Magenta — 5.6 Mbps (20.2%) — and 3, which saw a margin of 2.7 Mbps (7.4%) for urban users. However, even with a major gap to its urban counterparts, A1 users in rural areas saw the fastest average download speeds in the country, even exceeding those in urban areas for other operators — beating 3’s urban score by 3.8 Mbps and Magenta’s urban score by 9.6 Mbps.
We didn’t observe statistically significant differences between average 5G download speeds experienced by our urban and rural users over A1 and Magenta’s networks. 3 was the only operator with a substantial gap between our users’ urban and rural 5G experience — nearly 50 Mbps, which translates to 21.6% faster average 5G download speeds in urban areas than in rural. Noteworthy, 3’s average 5G download speeds in rural areas beat A1 and Magenta not only in rural areas but also in urban ones.
Looking at both metrics measuring the time that Opensignal users remained connected to the mobile networks — Magenta users in rural locations remained connected to 3G or better services 97.7% of the time, which was the highest result in rural Austria. The operator also saw the lowest rural-urban divide, of only one percentage point — compared to 1.5 percentage points seen on A1’s network and two percentage points recorded on 3’s network. In terms of 5G Availability — all of Austria’s operators were in a statistical tie in urban areas, but in rural areas, our 5G users on A1 and Magenta’s networks connected to 5G 10.3-13.9% of the time on average — statistically higher than 3. Similar to Availability, Magenta had the lowest gap between urban and rural areas, as its results were statistically tied. Meanwhile, 3 and A1 saw much higher gaps — 5.8 and 7.4 percentage points, respectively. Magenta has rolled out 5G services in Austria’s rural areas, using the 700 MHz band — the low-band provides wide coverage, with fewer base stations needed for deployment.
Our analysis shows that there is a gap between urban and rural services when it comes to the overall and 5G mobile network experience of our Austrian users — with our rural users seeing lower download speeds and less time connected to mobile services than their urban counterparts. However, the average 5G download speeds in Austria’s rural areas still clocked in at a decent score of over 150 Mbps. The Austrian government is working to close the urban-rural divide by investing in rural FTTH projects like nöGIG, while Infracapital plans to invest in fiber infrastructure in rural and semi-rural Austrian communities. With future 5G roll-outs and continuous expansion of network infrastructure, reliable 5G mobile services can be a strong contender against fixed broadband services in rural areas in Austria.
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