Hardik Khatri, Technical Analyst
Opensignal has analyzed 4G Download Speeds experienced by our users on smartphones across six of the largest cities in Latin America: Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Santiago, and São Paulo. We discovered that our users in São Paulo enjoyed the fastest speeds with an average 4G Download Speed score of 21.3 Mbps, marginally faster than Mexico City by 0.3 Mbps. Meanwhile, our users in Buenos Aires experienced the slowest speeds, with average 4G Download Speeds of 16.2 Mbps.
We noticed a consistent trend in all the six cities we analyzed: our users experienced a wide range of speeds during different hours of the day. The fastest 4G Download Speeds were enjoyed at 4 A.M. when few people were online and networks were least congested, with São Paulo scoring 31.9 Mbps, followed by Santiago at 31.4 Mbps.
As the day passes and networks become more congested, our users saw their 4G Download Speeds drop substantially. 4G Download Speeds in Santiago plunged to 9.2 Mbps, almost 50% lower than its average download speed — the largest fluctuation throughout the day in any of the cities we analyzed, despite Santiago having similar network capabilities as São Paulo, as highlighted by the fastest speeds measured in both cities.
Users in Buenos Aires experienced the smallest fluctuation in 4G Download Speed of less than 12 Mbps across the day, followed by Lima and Mexico City. It’s also noteworthy that Mexico and São Paulo’s 4G Download Speeds at the slowest hour of the day are on a par with the average 4G Download Speed experienced by users in all other cities. Although, the average Download speed across all listed cities was 18.1 Mbps.
The wide range between the fastest hourly 4G Download Speed and the average speed experienced by smartphone users in each city sheds light on the kind of challenges LATAM’s operators face as they provide services to a huge — and growing — number of smartphone users consuming data on their 4G networks.
Mobile data traffic consumption in Latin America grew by 68% in 2017, according to a Cisco study. And Cisco expects this to continue to grow exponentially in the coming years, fuelled mainly by increased adoption of smartphone devices to access internet, limited fixed broadband infrastructure and 4G becoming the dominant technology with an estimated market penetration of 38%. Today smartphones account for around 60% of connections on LATAM’s mobile network and around three-quarters, or 350 million people use their mobile devices to access the internet.
Latin America is home to a young population who are receptive to new technologies and spend the longest time online via smartphones — Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico all featured highly on the list of countries worldwide for average time per day spent using mobile internet with 3rd, 6th, 7th and 11th places respectively. LATAM countries are experiencing a strong shift from e-commerce to m-commerce, with mobile making up over 27.5% of all retail ecommerce, and also displaying faster revenue growth than ecommerce in general. Such a high adoption rate of smartphones has also given a push to the fintech industry, helping the sector deliver more competitive and convenient services, satisfying the massive structural demand for financial services: a growing industry now largely dependent on the quality of mobile network experience from LATAM's operators.
In response to these challenges and demands, operators in Latin America are now looking up to the new 5G technology in order to provide their subscribers with a state-of-the-art mobile network and add capacity. Although some operators around the world and at least one in Latin America claim to have launched a 5G commercial network already, it is sometimes unclear as to what extent early 5G launches are really available for real-world consumers using 5G smartphones, because such devices will only just start to become available in the second quarter of 2019. The question still remains if other operators in LATAM should rush into in launching 5G as a considerable portion of the population is still largely dependent on 2G and 3G networks. All these factors leave a good scope for the operators to address the significant fluctuations in 4G Download Speeds to optimize the user experience at any hour of the day.