Carriers are now using mobile data as their weapon of choice in the fight against the commoditization of voice and falling ARPU. With so much at stake it is imperative that carriers have networks which can consistently and reliably deliver robust data performance to their customers. In this report we show there is wide variation in how effectively carriers in Africa and the Middle East are achieving this objective today. There is a genuine risk that carriers which develop a reputation for inferior performance will suffer high churn and loss of subscribers.
This study is based on data speed and latency measurements collected using a speed test smartphone app. This approach has allowed ARCchart to collect millions of individual test readings from hundreds of thousands of users who have conducted tests for virtually every mobile carrier in virtually every country in the world. This report focuses on operators in Africa and the Middle East. ARCchart has estimated averages for download speed, upload speed, latency and overall network quality for 72 carriers in 25 countries in this region.
A wide variation in mobile broadband performance is observed, with some operators achieving speeds many times faster than competing carriers in the same market. For example, in Morocco, Medi Telecom shows the country's fastest download average of 978 kbps while inwi manages just 124 kbps. In South Africa, Vodacom's upload average is 1,227 kbps, while MTN's is 564 kbps.
Analysis of the test measurements shows that all 2G and 3G data air interfaces are encountered amongst operators, namely GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA, HSDPA, HSPA+. There is no evidence of LTE anywhere in the region. By utilising a graphical representation of test reading distribution, a profile of each carrier's network performance is constructed, providing insight into the data technologies in play and the capacity supported.
A carrier performance matrix was developed in order to determine which mobile operators achieve the best overall performance across the four metrics measured in this study - download, upload, latency and broadband coverage. The results show that du in the UAE has the best overall mobile broadband network of all the AME carriers examined. The top six operators are all in the Middle East and three South African operators make it into the top 10.
A league table was also developed for countries, ranking each country based on the download performance of its carriers' networks. The UAE, Angola and Saudi Arabia take the top three spots.
The test data also reveals valuable metrics unrelated to network performance, such as the carrier market share for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and the relative penetration of smartphones for each country. The general trend observed shows the more affluent countries with greater levels of smartphone penetration.
The test data also allow us to determine the relative market share which Android device OEMs have with each carrier and in each country. This shows that Samsung dominates the region's Android market, while Motorola has little presence and trails behind Sony Ericsson in most markets.
The majority of carriers examined in this research have implemented HSDPA within their network and 65% have deployed HSPA+. In most countries in the region there is at least one carrier which has migrated to HSPA+. Algeria, Iran, Iraq and Zambia are the only countries where none of the carriers have implemented HSPA+.
Despite the prevalence of HSDPA, the vast majority of carriers in the region still have a reliance on 2G data transmission, with just over 90% of operators showing activity over GRPS or EDGE.