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Higher usage and congestion affects the Egyptian mobile experience

Like speeds on city roads, mobile network experience also suffers under the burden of high traffic levels. Fast nighttime speeds can quickly slow to a snail’s pace in the light of day — this is a typical symptom of a heavily loaded network. Egyptian cities such as Cairo have long dealt with congested roads, but they now too have to deal with congested mobile networks and the impact on users’ experience too. Ironically, these busy mobile network times are also the times when the most people are using the network. Therefore, any worsening of experience is widely visible.

Average download speed, mobile gaming experience and user experience when watching videos all decline rapidly throughout the day — from the quietest period in the early morning, to the busiest period, in the late evening. Across Egypt, Download Speed Experience slows by almost a third in the evening, Games Experience falls by 26% and Video Experience by 19.7%. Out of the four cities we analyzed, Alexandria has the biggest drop in experience across the busy hours of the day.

The period during which our Egyptian mobile users see the best scores is between 6 a.m. - 9 a.m. for Download Speed Experience and Video Experience, and between 3 a.m. - 6 a.m. for Games Experience. Outside of these two periods the scores fall rapidly, reaching their lowest point at the 9 p.m. - midnight period. This reflects the difference in the traffic on the network; low traffic in the early morning gives a lightly loaded network that is able to perform at its best, while high traffic in the evening leads to a more heavily loaded network and a poorer mobile network experience for users.

Download Speed Experience changes the most, dropping continuously, down to a whopping 32.5% decrease in the late evening. Games Experience and Video Experience follow a similar trend, though both slightly increase in scores between noon - 3 p.m. and 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. A congested network doesn’t just choke the average download speeds, it also negatively impacts users’ experience with watching video streams and playing multiplayer mobile games.

The drop in score for Download Speed Experience is large, with the slowest part of the day clocking in at 14.7Mbps, a full 7.1Mbps (32.5%) less than during the early morning. The Video Experience score drops 12.7 points to 51.7 points on a 100-point scale, and although this is the smallest relative change across the day it has a large effect on user experience — this places it in the Fair (48-58) category, meaning that users experience more stalling and have a worse time viewing 720p video. The reduction in Games Experience of 14.4 points, from 55.4 points to 41 points, does not change the category that the experience is rated, but this sharp decrease will have noticeable effects on gaming performance.

Users have the best experience between 3 a.m. to 9 a.m when many people are still asleep or have only just woken up. Between 6 p.m. to midnight we tend to see lower scores as more people are using the network. We have taken the percentage differences between these periods, displaying each national operator and the city average for four of the most populous cities in Egypt: Alexandria, Cairo, Giza and Suez.

For all three metrics Alexandria places bottom with the greatest fall in mobile experience in the evening on individual operators — three out of four for both Download Speed Experience and Video Experience and two out of four for Games Experience. Likewise, Vodafone stands out on the chart as consistently having large relative decreases in score — across the cities and metrics, while Vodafone users do not always have the worst change, Vodafone is always near the bottom. Conversely, WE does not drop in score by as much as the others in Cairo, Giza and Suez — the operator has the smallest percentage change for all three metrics in Cairo and Giza, and doesn’t see a statistical difference in Download Speed Experience and Video Experience in Suez. This trend is bucked for Alexandria, where Etisalat has the smallest fall in experience for all three measures.

Some amount of congestion is inevitable. All networks will slow throughout the day as the traffic increases on them. Egypt has a large change in users’ mobile experience across hours of the day, losing almost a third of users’ average download speed in the late evening compared with the morning, likely due to increased network usage and greater congestion. There is also quite a variation in the change in experience over the four national operators — Etisalat, Orange, Vodafone and WE — and in the different Egyptian cities.

5G has not yet launched in Egypt, but when new 5G-specific spectrum becomes available then the increased 5G capacity will alleviate congestion and improve users’ experience in the afternoon and evening. A recent Opensignal analysis looking at the time of day experience in Japan for both 4G and 5G shows that 5G stays far more consistent throughout the day — along with providing a much faster and better mobile experience. In Japan, operators have deployed new 5G spectrum capacity.

Egypt will likely have other benefits from 5G, for example from a more consistent experience, as we have seen in other markets. 5G’s introduction into the Egyptian market offers operators new opportunities to gain competitive advantage, shaking up the landscape; 5G should lead to impressive improvements in Egyptian users’ mobile experience.