Japan

Mobile Network Experience Report
April 2021

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author
Ian Fogg VP Analysis

Key findings

SoftBank wins the Video Experience award

While SoftBank retained the award with a score of 80 on our 100 point scale — up from 79.1 in the last report — the experience for both our Rakuten and NTT DoCoMo users improved by a greater amount. Rakuten users saw their Video Experience increase from 64.9 to 68.7 and NTT DoCoMo from 77.2 to 78.8 this time. The three leading operators for mobile video streaming — au, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank — all enjoyed a video experience that rates as Excellent, while Rakuten has moved up into the Very Good category.

In Games Experience, SoftBank increases its winning margin

SoftBank's score of 82.7 is now over three points ahead of any rival, but in Opensignal's last report, the difference between SoftBank and NTT DoCoMo's score was much smaller and was 0.3 points. Rakuten closed the gap with au and NTT DoCoMo this time with a score of 79.1 compared with 78.8 for au and 79.4 for NTT DoCoMo — last time it lagged by these operators by 1.5 and 2.8 points, respectively. Games Experience quantifies the experience when playing real-time multiplayer mobile games on cellular connections.

Rakuten takes the Voice App Experience award from SoftBank

Rakuten narrowly wins the Voice App Experience award with a score of 83.1 on our 100 point scale, as former winner SoftBank scored 82.7. But there is little difference between all four operators' scores as NTT DoCoMo scored 81.7 and au 81.8. Opensignal's Voice App Experience measures the quality of experience for over-the-top (OTT) voice services — for example, using mobile apps such as LINE, WhatsApp, Skype or Facebook Messenger for real-time voice chat.

NTT DoCoMo users see the fastest average download speed of 54.5 Mbps

Again, NTT DoCoMo wins Opensignal's Download Speed Experience award ahead of au's 49.1 Mbps, SoftBank's 42.1 Mbps and Rakuten on 20.7 Mbps. This order is the same as in Opensignal's last report, but our users on NTT DoCoMo have seen an increase in speed from 52.3 Mbps to 54.5 Mbps while our users on the other three operators have seen no statistically significant change in their Download Speed Experience.

Sharing photos and videos is fastest for our users with Rakuten

Rakuten wins the Upload Speed Experience award with a speed of 11.6 Mbps ahead of NTT DoCoMo in second place on 9.9 Mbps. Notably, we see a different winner for our Download Speed Experience award indicating why it is important to look at different aspects of the mobile network experience. While download speed is important for acquiring new apps or retrieving office documents, upload speed is the key measure for uploading photos or videos on social media or messaging apps. As in other awards, both 4G and 5G measurements contribute to the Upload Speed Experience award.

au wins 4G Availability with a near-perfect score

Our users on au have access to 4G services for more time than our users on the other operators. While 4G Availability — time connected to 4G — may seem no longer relevant in a 5G world, because most 5G services continue to require a connection to 4G to operate, the wide availability of 4G services is an important foundation for 5G using non-standalone access. While au wins the award with a score of 99.7%, all four Japanese operators have extremely high 4G Availability scores that are close to a perfect 100% score.

Introduction

Mobile network experience is again a fascinating contest between the three established operators and new entrant Rakuten. This report is only the second Japan Mobile Network Experience report to include Rakuten.

Also, we've seen all Japan's operators compare well on a global stage recently. In Opensignal's Global Mobile Network Experience Awards 2021 we saw:

  • SoftBank jointly win the Global Games Experience and Video Experience awards and was a Global Leader for Voice App Experience and 4G Availability.
  • NTT DoCoMo was a Global Leader for Video Experience, Games Experience and 4G Availability and Voice App Experience.
  • Rakuten and au were also Global Leaders for 4G Availability and Voice App Experience.

In this latest report on Japan's mobile network experience we see all four operators win at least one Opensignal award proving the competitive nature of the Japanese mobile market. Our report is based upon real-world measurements taken on both 4G and 5G network technology in the ninety days between December 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.

Opensignal Awards Table

Mobile Experience Awards, Japan
April 2021, Japan Report
Video Experience
Games Experience
Voice App Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
4G Availability
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Mobile Experience Awards Winners
April 2021, Japan
Video Experience
Games Experience
Voice App Experience
Download Speed Experience
Upload Speed Experience
4G Availability
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Overview

Click on metric labels below for a quick preview
Video Experience
in 0-100 points
au
77.4
NTT DoCoMo
78.8
Rakuten
68.7
SoftBank
80.0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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National Analysis

Video Experience

On three of Japan's operators' networks, our users enjoyed an Excellent mobile Video Experience because au, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank all have scores over 75 points on our 100 point scale. Rakuten has moved up into the Very Good category (65 < 75) as its score has increased from 64.9 in our last report six months ago to 68.7 in this report. SoftBank again wins the Opensignal Video Experience award with a score of 80 slightly increased from its previous score of 79.1.

An Excellent Video Experience means there was a very consistent experience across all users, video streaming providers and resolutions tested, with fast loading times and almost non-existent stalling. A Very Good rating indicates that users had generally fast loading times with only occasional stalling but the experience might have been somewhat inconsistent across users with different video providers or resolutions.

Opensignal's Video Experience quantifies the quality of video streamed to mobile devices by measuring real-world video streams over an operator's networks using an International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach. The score reflects users' perceived video experience based on technical measurements of real mobile video streams including picture quality, video loading time and stall rate at different video resolutions.

Video Experience
in 0-100 points
au
77.4
NTT DoCoMo
78.8
Rakuten
68.7
SoftBank
80.0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Games Experience

Mobile multiplayer gaming has been one of the most challenging experiences for operators to deliver to users. With 5G, operators are looking to significantly improve the mobile gaming experience once future versions of 5G arrive that improve the responsiveness of mobile networks.

For now, with most users continuing to rely on 4G services for most of the time, SoftBank again wins the Opensignal Games Experience award. SoftBank's score of 82.7 on our 100 point scale ranks as a Good (75-86) experience meaning gameplay was generally controllable and the user, without the computer needing to take control to overcome network issues, and users received immediate feedback between their actions and the outcomes in the game. Most users did not experience a delay between their actions and the game responding.

Games Experience quantifies the experience when playing real-time multiplayer mobile games on mobile devices connected to servers located around the world. The approach is built on several years of research quantifying the relationship between technical network parameters and the gaming experience as reported by real mobile users. These parameters include latency (round trip time), jitter (variability of latency) and packet loss (the proportion of data packets that never reach their destination). Additionally, it considers multiple genres of multiplayer mobile games to measure the average sensitivity to network conditions. The games tested include some of the popular real-time multiplayer mobile games across battle royale, sport and massively multiple online battle arena (MOBA) games. Examples of games in these genres include Arena of Valor, Fortnite, Free Fire, Knives Out and Pro Evolution Soccer.

Games Experience
in 0-100 points
au
78.8
NTT DoCoMo
79.4
Rakuten
79.1
SoftBank
82.7
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Voice App Experience

Rakuten edges ahead in a close race to win the Voice App Experience award with a score of 83.1 on our 100 point scale. Previous winner SoftBank scored 82.7 to rank as second. But both au and NTT DoCoMo scored only slightly lower values with scores of 81.8 and 81.7 respectively. On all four operators, our users enjoyed a Good Voice App Experience.

Opensignal's Voice App Experience measures the quality of experience for over-the-top (OTT) voice services — for example mobile voice apps such as LINE, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger etc. — using a model derived from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach for quantifying overall voice call quality and a series of calibrated technical parameters. This model characterizes the exact relationship between the technical measurements and perceived call quality.

Voice App Experience
in 0-100 points
au
81.8
NTT DoCoMo
81.7
Rakuten
83.1
SoftBank
82.7
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Download Speed Experience

NTT DoCoMo wins the Download Speed Experience award with a speed of 54.5 Mbps ahead of au on 49.1 Mbps and SoftBank on 42.1 Mbps. While our NTT DoCoMo users have the fastest average download speed, NTT DoCoMo does not win any other Opensignal award in this report demonstrating the importance of measuring all parts of the mobile network experience. Notably, the winner for both the Games and Video Experience awards, SoftBank, ranks only third for Download Speed Experience.

While Rakuten has done well in other categories, in Download Speed Experience it remains in fourth position with a speed of 20.7 Mbps under one half of NTT DoCoMo's winning score. In part, this is because of the limited amount of 4G spectrum available for Rakuten and the relatively low levels of 5G adoption to date in Japan. While 5G speed measurements contribute to the overall scores for Download Speed Experience, the majority of users and tests continue to be on 4G and so Rakuten's relatively stronger 5G spectrum holding has not had a large impact on these results. With 5G uptake increasing on all of Japan's operators this award will be important to watch to see if the position of Japan's operators changes with the switch to the latest mobile network technology.

Download Speed Experience
in Mbps
au
49.1
NTT DoCoMo
54.5
Rakuten
20.7
SoftBank
42.1
0 13.75 27.5 41.25 55
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Upload Speed Experience

In only its second Opensignal report, Rakuten again wins the Upload Speed Experience award with a score of 11.6 Mbps ahead of NTT DoCoMo's 9.9 Mbps in second place. In our previous report, SoftBank took the second position but it has now dropped to third, with a speed of 9.3 Mbps. Despite being in second place for Download Speed Experience, au remains in fourth place for Upload Speed Experience with a score of 8.3 Mbps.

Upload Speed Experience
in Mbps
au
8.3
NTT DoCoMo
9.9
Rakuten
11.6
SoftBank
9.3
0 3.75 7.5 11.25 15
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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4G Availability

Across all four operators 4G Availability is incredibly good. 4G Availability represents the time our users are able to connect to 4G services. The winner of the 4G Availability award, au, has a score that is 0.3 points from a perfect 100% score. The other operators are also close with Rakuten users seeing 4G Availability of 98.7%, NTT DoCoMo scoring 99% and SoftBank reaching 98%.

While 5G has launched in Japan, the operators are using the initial version of the 5G standard and non-standalone access (NSA). This means that for a 5G smartphone user to connect to a 5G network they must also be connected to a 4G connection at the same time. So, for now, Japan's wide 4G Availability is an essential and valuable foundation for 5G services as well as supporting 4G users. When Japan's operators launch 5G services with standalone access (SA), 5G users will no longer need a 4G signal to connect to 5G. However, very few operators have launched SA to date.

4G Availability
% of time
au
99.7
NTT DoCoMo
99.0
Rakuten
98.7
SoftBank
98.0
0 25 50 75 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Regional Analysis

Across eight Japanese regions we see many close contests. Of the 48 regional awards, 46% are shared, and 54% are won outright by a single operator. Some of the categories are dominated by a single operator while in others there are many more joint winners.

All eight regional Download Speed Experience awards are won by NTT DoCoMo as it repeats its national success regionally. Our Rakuten users saw the greatest differences between regions with the highest mean speed of 25.8 Mbps in Kanto being over two and a half times faster than the 9.8 Mbps users saw in Chugoku. This wide variation reflects the state of Rakuten's network roll out: in regions where Rakuten's network is more widespread — or where Rakuten has been able to deploy 20 Mhz of its 1800 Mhz LTE band rather than only 5 Mhz —Rakuten users saw a better experience.

SoftBank won 75% of the regional Video Experience awards and jointly won the remainder. In Kyushu, SoftBank shared the award with NTT DoCoMo and in Shikoku it jointly won the award with both au and NTT DoCoMo. By contrast, in Games Experience SoftBank won just three regions outright — Chubu, Kanto and Kinki — but still jointly won the remainder.

In Upload Speed Experience we saw the most variation. While in every other regional category at least one operator won or jointly won every award, in Upload Speed Experience there was no dominant operator. Rakuten won two regional Upload Speed Experience awards outright — in Kanto and Kinki — but in the other regions other operators won the regional awards. NTT DoCoMo won the Hokkaido Upload Speed Experience award outright while in the other regions the awards were shared between au, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank. Again, this regional difference reflects the locations where Rakuten has built its own radio network to date.

For 4G Availability, au repeats its national success regionally with six outright regional awards. Rakuten and au jointly win the remaining two regional 4G Availability awards in Chugoku and Shikoku unsurprisingly because Rakuten users roam onto au's network in locations where Rakuten is yet to build its own radio network.

Select any region or city below to display individual breakdown

Chubu

Video Experience
in Chubu
in 0-100 points
au
77.2
NTT DoCoMo
78.7
Rakuten
67.3
SoftBank
80.2
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Games Experience
in Chubu
in 0-100 points
au
76.8
NTT DoCoMo
80.2
Rakuten
78.2
SoftBank
83.3
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Voice App Experience
in Chubu
in 0-100 points
au
81.6
NTT DoCoMo
82.0
Rakuten
83.1
SoftBank
83.1
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Download Speed Experience
in Chubu
in Mbps
au
46.3
NTT DoCoMo
56.7
Rakuten
15.5
SoftBank
43.3
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Upload Speed Experience
in Chubu
in Mbps
au
7.9
NTT DoCoMo
9.7
Rakuten
8.3
SoftBank
9.7
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4G Availability
in Chubu
% of time
au
99.7
NTT DoCoMo
98.9
Rakuten
98.9
SoftBank
97.7
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Chugoku

Video Experience
in Chugoku
in 0-100 points
au
77.9
NTT DoCoMo
78.7
Rakuten
62.0
SoftBank
80.5
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Games Experience
in Chugoku
in 0-100 points
au
79.4
NTT DoCoMo
77.7
Rakuten
78.9
SoftBank
81.2
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Voice App Experience
in Chugoku
in 0-100 points
au
82.1
NTT DoCoMo
82.0
Rakuten
82.9
SoftBank
82.0
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Download Speed Experience
in Chugoku
in Mbps
au
43.6
NTT DoCoMo
48.7
Rakuten
9.8
SoftBank
40.9
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Upload Speed Experience
in Chugoku
in Mbps
au
9.1
NTT DoCoMo
9.1
Rakuten
6.7
SoftBank
9.4
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4G Availability
in Chugoku
% of time
au
99.6
NTT DoCoMo
99.1
Rakuten
99.3
SoftBank
98.1
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Hokkaido

Video Experience
in Hokkaido
in 0-100 points
au
76.3
NTT DoCoMo
78.1
Rakuten
67.4
SoftBank
80.0
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Games Experience
in Hokkaido
in 0-100 points
au
79.0
NTT DoCoMo
77.3
Rakuten
78.0
SoftBank
81.3
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Voice App Experience
in Hokkaido
in 0-100 points
au
82.4
NTT DoCoMo
82.4
Rakuten
84.0
SoftBank
82.7
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Download Speed Experience
in Hokkaido
in Mbps
au
44.8
NTT DoCoMo
56.1
Rakuten
16.6
SoftBank
44.6
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Upload Speed Experience
in Hokkaido
in Mbps
au
9.1
NTT DoCoMo
10.6
Rakuten
9.1
SoftBank
8.8
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4G Availability
in Hokkaido
% of time
au
99.5
NTT DoCoMo
99.1
Rakuten
98.7
SoftBank
97.9
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Kanto

Video Experience
in Kanto
in 0-100 points
au
77.2
NTT DoCoMo
78.9
Rakuten
70.6
SoftBank
80.0
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Games Experience
in Kanto
in 0-100 points
au
79.3
NTT DoCoMo
80.6
Rakuten
80.2
SoftBank
83.6
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Voice App Experience
in Kanto
in 0-100 points
au
81.7
NTT DoCoMo
81.6
Rakuten
83.3
SoftBank
82.9
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Download Speed Experience
in Kanto
in Mbps
au
52.6
NTT DoCoMo
54.9
Rakuten
25.8
SoftBank
40.7
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Upload Speed Experience
in Kanto
in Mbps
au
7.9
NTT DoCoMo
10.1
Rakuten
14.6
SoftBank
9.0
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4G Availability
in Kanto
% of time
au
99.7
NTT DoCoMo
98.9
Rakuten
98.4
SoftBank
98.2
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Kinki

Video Experience
in Kinki
in 0-100 points
au
77.7
NTT DoCoMo
78.7
Rakuten
70.6
SoftBank
80.7
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Games Experience
in Kinki
in 0-100 points
au
78.5
NTT DoCoMo
78.4
Rakuten
79.1
SoftBank
84.6
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Voice App Experience
in Kinki
in 0-100 points
au
82.1
NTT DoCoMo
81.7
Rakuten
83.0
SoftBank
83.4
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Download Speed Experience
in Kinki
in Mbps
au
51.8
NTT DoCoMo
55.6
Rakuten
23.6
SoftBank
44.1
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Upload Speed Experience
in Kinki
in Mbps
au
8.0
NTT DoCoMo
10.7
Rakuten
11.9
SoftBank
9.8
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4G Availability
in Kinki
% of time
au
99.6
NTT DoCoMo
98.9
Rakuten
98.6
SoftBank
97.6
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Kyushu

Video Experience
in Kyushu
in 0-100 points
au
77.5
NTT DoCoMo
78.6
Rakuten
60.8
SoftBank
78.7
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Games Experience
in Kyushu
in 0-100 points
au
79.7
NTT DoCoMo
77.6
Rakuten
78.1
SoftBank
80.3
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Voice App Experience
in Kyushu
in 0-100 points
au
82.1
NTT DoCoMo
81.8
Rakuten
83.1
SoftBank
82.5
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Download Speed Experience
in Kyushu
in Mbps
au
43.3
NTT DoCoMo
52.1
Rakuten
10.8
SoftBank
39.5
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Upload Speed Experience
in Kyushu
in Mbps
au
8.6
NTT DoCoMo
8.9
Rakuten
7.3
SoftBank
9.2
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4G Availability
in Kyushu
% of time
au
99.6
NTT DoCoMo
98.8
Rakuten
99.1
SoftBank
97.7
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Shikoku

Video Experience
in Shikoku
in 0-100 points
au
78.7
NTT DoCoMo
79.2
Rakuten
59.7
SoftBank
78.4
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Games Experience
in Shikoku
in 0-100 points
au
82.1
NTT DoCoMo
79.0
Rakuten
79.4
SoftBank
80.6
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Voice App Experience
in Shikoku
in 0-100 points
au
82.8
NTT DoCoMo
82.0
Rakuten
83.2
SoftBank
82.1
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Download Speed Experience
in Shikoku
in Mbps
au
48.8
NTT DoCoMo
57.3
Rakuten
10.5
SoftBank
44.1
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Upload Speed Experience
in Shikoku
in Mbps
au
9.7
NTT DoCoMo
10.1
Rakuten
7.0
SoftBank
9.6
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4G Availability
in Shikoku
% of time
au
99.7
NTT DoCoMo
98.9
Rakuten
99.5
SoftBank
96.4
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Tohoku

Video Experience
in Tohoku
in 0-100 points
au
77.6
NTT DoCoMo
78.6
Rakuten
64.6
SoftBank
80.0
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Games Experience
in Tohoku
in 0-100 points
au
81.2
NTT DoCoMo
80.1
Rakuten
78.1
SoftBank
83.1
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Voice App Experience
in Tohoku
in 0-100 points
au
82.5
NTT DoCoMo
82.0
Rakuten
82.9
SoftBank
82.9
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Download Speed Experience
in Tohoku
in Mbps
au
43.8
NTT DoCoMo
50.6
Rakuten
11.0
SoftBank
43.3
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Upload Speed Experience
in Tohoku
in Mbps
au
9.4
NTT DoCoMo
8.7
Rakuten
7.3
SoftBank
8.9
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4G Availability
in Tohoku
% of time
au
99.6
NTT DoCoMo
98.9
Rakuten
98.9
SoftBank
98.2
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Learn more

Opensignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks in the places they live, work and travel.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the true experience of smartphone users. Therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only.

For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars. In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

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For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars.

In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

Why confidence intervals are vital in analyzing mobile network experience

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