Congestion slows 4G user experience in Nigeria, others

A report has revealed subscribers’ dis-satisfaction of the Fourth Generation (4G) services offered by operators because of the increasing slow speed performance at crucial times.

A 4G mast

• Operators urged to invest in 5G

A report has revealed subscribers’ dis-satisfaction of the Fourth Generation (4G) services offered by operators because of the increasing slow speed performance at crucial times.

Conducted on 4G services in 77 countries including Nigeria, Network monitoring outfit, Opensignal concluded that congestion is messing with the 4G user experience.The 4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, succeeding 3G. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.

According to Opensignal, the 4G networks enjoyed today are light years from the 3G that kicked off the mobile data revolution at the turn of the millennium, but the networks have their faults. The biggest among them are inconsistency and congestion.
Though, the report was a bit silent on Nigeria, it however, ranked it 75 out of 77 of the countries surveyed in terms of its 4G speed. Recall that in 2016, some major operators including MTN, Glo and Etisalat, now 9Mobile and later in 2017, Airtel had rolled out 4G services in Nigeria in quick succession with the hope to give subscribers a new experience entirely. But the services brought frustrations on the people, owing to slow connections and increased drop calls.

But lately, and arguably, after much complaint, 4G services appeared to be picking up gradually in Nigeria.The President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, two years ago, told The Guardian in an interview that the service may not get perfected in the country until 2020.

The reasons, he adduced for this are that the 4G/LTE is still evolutionary, and that the infrastructure to run it is still very much inadequate in the country. But Opensignal have called for investments in 5G services. It noted that 5G is best suited to cities because of the shorter range of the higher frequencies, which is handy because that’s where the worst of the congestion is.

Across the hours of the day, Opensignal said its analysis showed the enormous extent to which 4G speed drop when most people are awake, using their smartphones and wanting a great mobile data experience. This fall in speeds indicate the pressure from millions of simultaneous users with which operators must cope.

Opensignal, a UK based researched outfit, noted that in some countries, the user experience can vary between the download speed of 31.2 Mbps and 5.8 Mbps faster at the best hour of day compared with the slowest hour of the day.It noted that congestion on current 4G networks is holding back speeds, highlighting the need for new 5G capacity to relieve pressure.

Accordingly, during the optimal time of day, usually when most users are asleep, networks are capable of enabling a significantly faster download experience than during awake hours. Opensignal noted that across the day, 42 per cent of countries experienced speed variation of two times or more. For instance, it observed that in the U.S., the best 4G download speed was 1.9 times faster in the late hours of the night, when networks are quieter and most users are offline, than during the day and evening leisure hours, when networks most need to offer a great experience for their users.

It stated that India’s best 4G download speed was 3.9 times faster than the speed experienced at the slowest time of day.
Analysing the difference between the time when smartphone users experience the fastest download speed and the time when speed are slowest, Opensignal noted that the difference between the best and worst speed indicate the speed a country’s networks are able to deliver under both the most optimal and least optimal conditions depending on time of day.
Countries with a wide range likely have greater congestion pressure on their networks. Those countries with little difference between best and worst speeds most likely have networks that are lightly loaded.

In the report, titled: ‘The 5G Opportunity: How 5G will solve the congestion problems of today’s 4G networks,’ the authors including Principal Analyst, Kelvin Fitchard; Senior Technical Analyst, Francesco Rizzato and VP Analysis, Ian Fogg, noted that Canada, the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea all have little variation in speed despite being at varying stages of 4G development.This, according to Opensignal indicated a high degree of consistency in speed across the 4G networks in these countries regardless of the hour.

According to the report, to launch all the most demanding new applications, such as augmented reality or autonomous driving, operators and app developers must be able to break free from today’s limitations where they are forced to create services and apps for the worst-case congestion conditions.It stressed that the world needs new 5G networks to offer increased capacity, and more consistent speeds to sustain new innovations.
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