It takes less than 3 seconds for mobile video to load on Singapore's 4G networks

In Opensignal's recent State of Mobile Video report, we lauded Singapore's high achievements in Video Experience. It was one of a handful of countries that earned a Very Good score on our 100-point Video Experience scale, and individually, all three of Singapore's major operators met the same high standard in our operator breakdown of video quality. But what's behind that "Very Good" score? We thought this would be a good opportunity to examine the particulars of operators' high ratings in Singapore over LTE networks, which account for the vast majority of our video tests in the country. We focused on two major components of our Video Experience calculation: 4G Video Loading Time and 4G Video Stalling Occurrence.

 

 

Our first metric, 4G Video Loading Time, is fairly self-explanatory. It's the average period of time mobile users have to wait for a streamed video to begin playing over an LTE connection. Singapore consumers, quite frankly, don't spend much time staring at loading icons as you can see in our first chart. The longest Video Load Time in our measurements was on Starhub's networks, and that wait was only 2.7 seconds. Singtel and M1 were statistically tied at 2.4 seconds, making them incrementally faster in Video Load Time than StarHub, but the differences between the three were practically negligible.

Our next metric 4G Video Stalling Occurrence measures the proportion of users that experience an interruption in playback after a video begins streaming. If a video halts to buffer or stutters due to a weak connection, then those moments when pictures aren't moving are all factored into our Video Stalling Occurrence metric.

While 10% 4G Video Stalling Occurrence isn't uncommon even in countries with advanced 4G infrastructures, Singapore's operators came in well under that mark. Starhub had the highest rate of stalling at 4.3% in our analysis, followed by Singtel at 2.9%, but the real star of the show was M1. Its 4G Video Stalling Occurrence score was just 1.6%, meaning interruptions in video playback were rare among our users.

No single factor explains why mobile video quality is so good in Singapore. It's true that Singapore is one of the fastest countries in the world when it comes to download, but while speed does have some impact on Video Experience, faster isn't always better when it comes to video quality. Countries with higher download speed averages than Singapore actually often do much worse in Video Experience, according to our analysis. Latency has a bearing on Video Loading time, as the faster a video request traverses the network the sooner that content begins buffering and playback starts. And our analysis has shown Singapore's operators are among the best in the world in maintaining nimble, low-latency networks.

Finally, consistency of connection speed plays a major role in Video Experience. Last month, Opensignal published a report titled The 5G Opportunity, which highlighted the wild swings in 4G Download Speed over the course of a day we see on networks around the world.

Video is particularly sensitive to fluctuations in speed. A video that plays without difficulty one moment may find itself suddenly starved for bandwidth in the next if download speeds suddenly drop due to congestion or other factors. In Singapore we found the same speed fluctuations as in other countries, but the difference was Singapore's operators were able to maintain strong connections despite those fluctuations. According to our analysis, average 4G Download Speeds in Singapore never dropped below 41.4 Mbps no matter the hour of day. And a consistent 40 Mbps connection is more than enough to support all but the most demanding HD video streams.

Singapore is preparing for the entrance of TPG, a fourth operator that aims to shake up competition in the Singapore mobile scene. While TPG will likely try to challenge Singapore's three incumbents in pricing, it will be interesting to see if TPG can also be competitive from a mobile network experience perspective. The three incumbents have already set a very high bar in Video Experience as well as speed, availability and latency. It will be difficult for a network to match those standards right out of the gate.