SA leads Africa's smartphone download speeds

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OpenSignal says that across Africa, download speeds experienced by smartphone users vary significantly.
OpenSignal says that across Africa, download speeds experienced by smartphone users vary significantly.

Across Africa, the download speeds experienced by smartphone users vary greatly, even for countries with similar 4G availability, with South Africa showing the fastest speeds.

This is according to new data supplied exclusively to ITWeb by mobile analytics company OpenSignal.

OpenSignal says while users in SA, Morocco, Senegal and Kenya connect to 4G signals on average between 72% and 75% of the time, download speeds vary from just 4.4Mbps in Senegal to 14.4Mbps in SA.

"This wide difference is because of a number of factors, including the capacity of cell site backhaul most commonly used, microwave links are common in Africa yet support fewer users at high speed than fibre links, as well as the number of users and the quantity of mobile video consumption," explains Ian Fogg, VP for analysis at OpenSignal.

Data collected between 9 September and 29 December 2018 shows SA is way ahead when it comes to download speeds on 4G (14.4Mbps), followed by nations like Tunisia (11.6Mbps), Morocco (9.9Mbps), Kenya (9.4Mbps) and Egypt (8.2Mbps). Those with the slowest download speeds on the continent include Libya (2.3Mbps), Ethiopia (2.5Mbps) and Algeria (2.8Mbps).

Fogg points out that Africa has for some time been regarded as being a mobile growth market for operators, vendors and consumers where Europe and North America have stalled.

"Across Africa, 4G is still being rolled out. Many users continue to have smartphones capable of only 3G, either because the smartphone hardware is less capable, or because their SIM card is 3G-only. The sheer size of African countries combined with low population densities also means rural areas still often have only a 3G network experience available for 4G smartphone owners."

Fogg says that like everywhere, Africans are embracing smartphones as a core part of their lives.

"But in Africa, the smartphone is more likely to be a person's only digital device, which makes the experience mobile only and not just mobile first. This means the smartphone has an even greater importance for consuming video than for consumers in other markets."

OpenSignal found that mobile video experience scores across Africa are relatively low, ranging from poor in Nigeria, Algeria and Sudan, to good in SA.

"While consumers may have fewer alternative ways to consume digital video in Africa, operators will find enormous potential to differentiate their mobile service using mobile video across the continent because of the increased role of mobile in consumers' lives," Fogg explains.

Fogg says upload speeds are an important part of the mobile video experience as upload is used for e-mail, sharing content, and for business users for sharing office files and connecting to remote virtual private networks.

"While the download speeds experienced by smartphone users are adequate for Web browsing in leading African markets such as Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia and SA, the upload speeds experienced by users are perhaps more limiting."

OpenSignal found that upload speeds are under 1Mbps in Ethiopia (0.5Mbps), Libya (0.6Mbps) and Burkina Faso (0.6Mbps), where smartphone users mostly connect to the world using 3G. But in most of Africa, upload speeds are under 3Mbps, which will make sharing user-generated video on social networks especially slow, even if the download speeds are high enough to allow smartphone users to watch videos on sites such as YouTube.

"As 4G availability grows across Africa, mobile operators should seek to evangelise video sharing alongside video consumption to acquire customers," Fogg adds.

OpenSignal regards itself as the global standard for analysing and reporting on consumers' real-world mobile network experience at the largest scale and frequency in the wireless industry: by operator, by country, regionally and worldwide. The company independently collects more than three billion individual measurements every day from over 100 million smartphones globally and applies scientific analysis to produce various industry reports.

* All graphs courtesy of OpenSignal.
** Data collection period: 9 September to 29 December 2018.

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