Argentina was one of South America's latest arrivals to LTE, with Movistar launching the country's first 4G services in December 2014, closely followed by Claro and Personal. In that short timeframe, Argentina's operators have come far in building out the country's LTE infrastructure, but they still have work to do if they want to catch up with their regional peers. Drawing on 38 million measurements taken by 16,600 OpenSignal users from January to March 2016, we analyzed Argentina's 4G networks' performance.
As a newcomer to 4G, Argentina's LTE footprint is still limited, but it's quickly improving. Since our last Argentina report in November, we've seen operators expand their networks into more markets, which has led to increased 4G availability for Personal and Claro. All three operators have now surpassed the 40% mark in our 4G availability metric.
The crown for 4G availability goes once more to Movistar, whose customers experienced an LTE signal 63% of the time. Movistar also shared our award for fastest LTE network with Personal and ranked first in overall speed.
As operators ramp up their 4G services, it may be taking a toll on Argentina's networks as more customers compete for limited LTE resources. Overall, average LTE download speeds fell across Argentina. The fastest speeds we measured came from Personal and Movistar — which were tied statistically — and both averaged 10 Mbps or less.
With LTE national averages of 51% for 4G availability and 9 Mbps for download speeds, Argentina is behind most of its regional peers. In a comparison to the major countries of South America, Argentina ranked near the bottom of the table in both categories.
|Download Speed: 4G||Download Speed: 3G||Download Speed: Overall||Availability: 4G|
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on LTE connections as measured by Opensignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed for each operator on 3G connections as measured by Opensignal users.
This metric shows the average download speed experienced by Opensignal users across all of an operator's 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed doesn't just factor in 3G and LTE speeds, but also the availability of each network technology. Operators with lower LTE availability tend to have lower overall speeds because their customers spend more time connected to slower 3G networks.
This metric shows the proportion of time Opensignal users have an LTE connection available to them on each operator’s network. It's a measure of how often users can access a 4G network rather than a measure of geographic or population coverage.
When we last examined Argentina's 4G networks in November 2015, we described a country in its LTE infancy, where availability was low and operators were still building out their national 4G footprints. Eight months later, as operators expand into new markets adding millions of customers to their networks, more Argentines have access to 4G signals, but average speeds are starting to decline.
Telefónicas's Movistar took the crown with a 4G availability of 63.1%. Our availability metric measures the proportion of time users can connect to a particular network. In the case of Movistar, its 4G users were able to see an LTE signal 63.1% of the time during our three-month test period. Telecom Argentina's Personal and América Móvil's Claro had 4G availability metrics of of 51.1% and 41.4% respectively. Both operators still fell well short of Movistar in 4G availability, but the good news is that time spent on 4G has been improving for both since November, when Personal and Claro were below the 40% mark.
While LTE availability is increasing, speeds remain slow across the board. Our award for the fastest LTE network was shared by Personal and Movistar, their download averages of 10.1 Mbps and 9.0 Mbps respectively being close enough to produce a statistical draw. Claro, once jointly tied for first place with Personal for this metric, now came last at 8.5 Mbps.
It was an equally close race in terms of 3G data services, with all operators delivering speeds of around 2 Mbps, Movistar and Personal just edging out Claro. Because of its superior LTE availability, however, Movistar took the ribbon for overall speed at 4.3 Mbps — its users were able to connect to faster 4G networks more often than its competitors'.
Overall, average LTE download speeds have fallen since our last report, but a drop in speeds was to be expected as operators sign up more 4G subscribers and an increasing number of devices start to compete for the same resources. According to our most recent State of LTE report, Argentina ranks near the bottom among the biggest countries in South America with an average LTE download speed of 9 Mbps. The fastest 4G download speeds were to be found in Ecuador (17 Mbps) and the slowest in Bolivia (6 Mbps). Argentina fared a little better in 4G availability, outperforming Chile and Ecuador.
A year and a half after 4G made its debut, Argentina's LTE market is still young but growing steadily, reaching increasing numbers of places and users. A government plan to replace older cell phones with 4G-capable smartphones is set to be launched this month, the more optimistic estimates predicting that there could be over 15 million 4G lines by the end of 2016.
This growth might, however, be impacting negatively the speeds provided by LTE networks that weren't that powerful to begin with — and which could in fact slow down further as new subscribers compete for limited capacity. Operators can solve this problem by building more 4G on new airwaves, a development that has already started as operators expand into newly acquired licenses in the 700 MHz band (which due to its far-propagating frequencies could also provide a boost in 4G availability). Argentina's communications regulator ENACOM also has recently prompted pay-TV providers to vacate the 600 MHz band, which could provide an additional spectrum boost for mobile operators. Given the dynamic nature of the market — with LTE rollout ongoing as this report is published — we might encounter a very different scenario in our next Argentina report.
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