By Kevin Fitchard, Principal Analyst
The South American continent contains some of the largest cities in the world, and these metros are located in some very distinct locations. Rio de Janeiro's sun-drenched beaches are a far cry from the sweeping volcano vistas of Quito or the rainforests of Manaus. But just as the urban geography is varied in South America, so is the mobile consumer experience in its biggest cities. Opensignal has examined the download and upload speeds in 25 of South America's largest cities to see how they stacked up.
In download speed it’s hard to argue with Brazil's urban numbers. Five of the top six cities in our Download Speed Experience rankings were in Brazil. Most notably, Porto Alegre and Brasília along with Peru's Trujillo were the only cities in which our users experienced average download speed of 16 Mbps or greater.
What's interesting, though, is that Download Speed Experience scores weren't universally high for all of Brazil's cities; rather we saw distinct regional differences in the outsized country. The fastest Brazilian cities were located in the southern portions of the country where the political, industrial and economic might is concentrated. Northern cities like Fortaleza and Recife landed near the bottom of our rankings, indicating operators should consider raising their investment to improve the mobile network experience for users in those cities.
Brazil's northern metropoles, however, were still considerably faster than the lowest rankings in our analysis. Only three of our 25 cities failed to provide our users with average download speeds greater than 12 Mbps. Colombia's Bogotá was closest with a Download Speed Experience score of 10.6 Mbps. But Venezuela's Caracas and Maracaibo occupied the bottom two slots on our list, with average overall download speeds of 5.8 Mbps and 3 Mbps respectively. Venezuela still relies heavily on 3G services, as 4G networks are still not readily available even in urban areas. That lowers Caracas and Maracaibo's Download Speed Experience significantly.
If download speeds are fast in Brazilian cities you would expect that the Brazilian metropoles would be equally powerful in upload, but that's not the case. In Upload Speed Experience, the leaders in our analysis represented a large cross section of urban South America. Peru's Lima held the top slot, its score of 7.2 Mbps just barely beating out Santiago's score of 7 Mbps in Chile. Of the eight cities in our analysis with average overall upload speeds of 6.5 Mbps or more, Peru and Brazil each had two while Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia had one each.
It's worth noting though that cities that excelled in upload speed in several cases didn't do so well in download. Santiago ranked in the bottom half of our Download Speed Experience chart, but it landed in second place in upload. Both Colombian cities, Bogotá and Cali, ranked significantly higher in our Upload Speed Experience chart than they did in our download chart. In Argentina, Buenos Aires showed a better Download Speed Experience than Córdoba, but their roles were reversed in our upload rankings.