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4G networks reach near ubiquity in APAC

Although coverage of 4G services in Asia-Pacific, particularly in India, is almost ubiquitous, telcos in the region still have some catching-up to do

Even as mobile operators across Asia-Pacific (APAC) gear up to roll out 5G networks, existing mobile networks remain crucial in serving the needs of users in the region, where 4G connectivity has become more ubiquitous.

According to the State of mobile network experience report by mobile analytics company Opensignal, 4G availability in APAC has reached near ubiquity, particularly in South Korea (97.5%), Japan (96.3%), Hong Kong (94.1%), Taiwan (92.8%) and India (91%).

In its report, Opensignal commended the “remarkable rise of India” in terms of 4G availability, thanks to the efforts of startup telco Jio, which “seriously disrupted the market with its aggressive low-cost unlimited data bundles”.

It added: “The operator rolled out its 4G network at a remarkable rate, hitting 97.5% 4G availability in our last report on India – the highest score among operators we have ever measured in any of our country reports.”

Opensignal noted that Jio’s success had, in turn, spurred rivals to expand their network footprint, lifting India’s overall penetration rate for 4G services in a relatively new and vast market.

The more mature APAC markets of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Australia performed well in the latency experience metric, with Singapore achieving the lowest latency globally at 30.7ms. Globally, only 13 countries achieved latencies of less than 40ms.

While lower latencies are crucial for gaming and other real-time applications, most consumers typically look to download speeds as a measure of an operator’s network performance. Not surprisingly, South Korea was the only country where users enjoyed average mobile download speeds of more than 50Mbps.

This was followed by Norway with 48.2Mbps, then Canada and the Netherlands with just over 42Mbps. The remaining six of the top 10 markets scored in the 33-40Mbps range, with Singapore at 39.3Mbps and Australia at 37.5Mbps.

But when it comes to video experience, APAC telcos still have some catching-up to do. According to the Opensignal report, Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Norway and Singapore scored the highest on this metric, measured on factors such as load times and resolutions of video streams on user devices.

Analyst firm Ovum said in a research note that despite the attention on 5G, enterprise use cases for 5G services have yet to be defined, pointing out that this will constrain the 5G business case in some geographies for several years.

As such, Ovum said 4G networks will remain “an integral part of mobile operators’ strategies for many more years”.

It added: “5G roll-out will be slower than 4G roll-out, and there is a risk of a persistent performance gap between 4G and 5G coverage areas. The risk is that a new digital divide between 5G-haves and 5G-have-nots will emerge.”

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