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THE 2019 FIXED LINE BROADBAND TEST – GERMANY & AUSTRIA

A closer look at Broadband

Video streaming in 4K resolution, internet gaming action in multiplayer mode or the growing appeal of cloudbased applications services put more and more demand on fixed-line connections. So, it is quite about time to examine once again which level of internet performance the network operators have to offer to their customers.  Again, we have done this examination in cooperation with our partner, the renowned network testing expert P3.

Crowdsourced broadband testing focuses on the user experience

The measurements concentrated on the data rates in both the download and upload directions as well as the run times of the IP data packets. This time, P3 extended the testing period of its extensive crowdsourced examination to 24 weeks. At the same time, the data basis of the evaluations regarding both area and time frame were increased tremendously. Our testing method rests upon passively determining data rates and signal run times in the home network. This happens in the background, while every-day  smartphone apps are utilised. This year, we extended the scope of our test to Austria. Above that, we focused our  assessments on the thrilling question, to what degree the experience of users located in rural areas lags behind the one for users in urban agglomerations. For the classification of urban and rural areas, P3 respects the official criteria and designations of the European Union (GHS Urban Centre Database, https://data.jrc.ec.europa.eu/dataset/53473144-b88c-44bc-b4a3-4583ed1f547e).

High internet performance comes on top, a reliable service is the foundation

When it comes to the number of tested access lines, the crowdsourcing approch is unbeaten. This time, the tests included more than 363,000 internet lines. As a consequence of the methodology, P3‘s fixed-line test concentrates on internet service providers who operate their own infrastructure. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the lion‘s share of the measurement data considers lines which are delivered by the classic primary providers. Deutsche Telekom and A1 Telekom Austria offer by far the best network coverage, especially in rural areas. Both operators often use basic copper lines (ADSL) to supply their competitors with internet connections for remarketing. Furthermore, P3 included the (broadband cable) networks which are only available from the  respective providers in certain federal states. To become the nationwide winner, however, an operator has to offer an adequate number of end-customer connections in each federal state. We did not differentiate between the access technologies DSL, broadband cable and fiber. All connection types were treated equally in the evaluation.

Wanted: Network operators who offer the best user experience at  home

In contrast to other network tests which often examine the upper capacity limits under typically optimum conditions, our approach aims at delivering a realistic view of the actual user experience for each examined region. Besides the technical single measurements from more than 363,000 lines took part in the evaluation 203 Mio networks and Smart Home www.pc-magazin.de PC Magazin 10/2019 71 situation on both sides – the operators and the customers –, this also involves possible speed limits which the user has chosen by selecting an internet tariff. However, the test results are a valuable guideline when a customer is about to choose a suitable internet provider. In short: Operators who offer higher average data rates and shorter signal run times within a certain area, obviously maintain a more powerful network and/or offer tariffs for high performance at relatively attractive fees. This undoubtedly accomodates the interests of users.

The best broadband provider always depends on the location

So much for the openers. On the following pages, you will find all  detailed results and will also be able to learn which operator offers the best fixed-line performance according to our crowdsourcing methodology – both nationwide as well as regional. Further insights and additional suspense will be derived from our decision to not only present our assessments differentiated by urban and rural areas, but also – for the first time – to denominate the best three providers for each of the federal states located within the two countries taken into account by our fixed-line test.

GERMANY – a close race

All in all, the network of Deutsche Telekom took a close win in the race among Germany‘s nationwide infrastructure providers. Telefónica and Vodafone follow, each at close distance to the preceding candidate. It  was foremost shorter signal run times – the duration which the data packets need for travelling from the web servers to the end users‘ devices – which ultimately tipped the scale. Such short signal run  times are for example highly important to online gamers in order to  have a successful interactive gaming experience. As a primary  provider, Deutsche Telekom supplies by far the most access lines the test considers – more than 145,000 in the urban and rural areas. In remote areas, this operator often is the only source for internet access – most of the times via classic copper lines. Furthermore, other  providers who lack a (complete) infrastructure of their own, often use the older (ADSL) connections of Telekom in order to supply internet to their customers. We added these reseller

lines to Deutsche Telekom‘s results. This might lead to the assumption that a multitude of slower lines could „incriminate“ the result of  Telekom. However, the influence can not be too big – otherwise  Telekom would hardly have taken the overall win of our benchmark test. Contrary to our planning, results for 1&1 could not be included because it was not possible to distinguish business connections of 1&1 Versatel and unbundled access lines of other providers from those of private end users.
A comparison of urban and rural areas
As expected, the internet performance in urban agglomerations was better than in rural areas. Depending on the test discipline and  provider, occasional larger deviations became apparent. Apart from that, the rural areas performed astonishingly well – at least on average. The table on the right shows that the nationwide winner is by no means automatically the front-runner in each region. The table lists the top

three provides separately for the urban and rural areas. The points indicate how close the respective operators come to the possible maximum of 1000 points. In general, it can be said that local broadband cable providers typically achieve the best results – partially at respectable distances. First of all, this is true for the operator which currently is bound to be acquired by Vodafone: Unitymedia took the top positions in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse and North Rhine- Westphalia. Wilhelm.tel, a subsidiary company of the municipal utilities of Norderstedt, operates its own fibre network and   additionally cooperates with local cable network providers. It does so with a lot of success: In Hamburg and in rural areas of Schleswig- Holstein, the northern German champion achieved the highest scores overall. The brand PŸUR is operated by Tele Columbus. The self- named largest independent cable operator scored best in (urban)  Berlin, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and urban Thuringia.

In our broadband test, Telefónica scores best in the urban areas of  Bavaria and Rhineland- Palatinate and in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

In rural areas, Vodafone wins in Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate and Lower Saxony. In Schleswig-Holstein wilhelm.tel takes the lead.

AUSTRIA – a successful premiere

And the winner of our first Austria-wide fixed-network test is …  Magenta. The still “young“ telecommunications company rose just a few months ago from the merger of T-Mobile Austria and the cable operator UPC Austria. For the overall win, we a prior only  considered operators who are active in each federal state with a  sufficient number of connections. Especially for the important  download data rates, Magenta gathered the highest number of  points – this applied also in comparison to Germany. As an example, 90 per cent of Magenta‘s lines achieved at least 8.0 mbps in the urban areas. Taking a look at the rural performances, the powerful cable networks of former UPC Austria probably played an important role in achieving the very good results. This can be seen in Voralberg, Tyrol and Lower Austria, where their access lines obviously perform well. Looking at the test result of Hutchison Drei, which also includes the network of former Tele2, a direct  comparison between urban and rural results reveals some surprises: In the Drei network, rural residents get on average somewhat  higher data rates than customers living in the big cities.

And what about the network of A1 Telekom Austria? This operator, who ranks second in the nationwide comparison, lost valuable points to  Magenta – especially in the cities. Still, A1 goes strong on overall  short signal run times. Lower latency contributes to faster reactions within a web browser and thus to a speedier web surfing experience.
Network coverage is equally important
A look at the number of tested access lines shows the wide availability of A1‘s network also in rural areas: Of approximately 30,000 measured access lines, A1 accounted for almost 60 per cent. Our broadly based crowdsourcing test honors the primary provision to remote villages, similar to the network of Deutsche Telekom in  Germany. In addition we take into account access lines that A1  makes available to other internet providers (resale connections),  which can not be filtered with our methodology. But facing the overall high number of considered access lines, we believe this effect to be of negligible influence. Although we could not differentiate between DSL, broadband cable and fiber connections, the strong results of the local cable

providers suggest that these access lines – if available – on average deliver the best internet experience. This can be deduced from the comparison of Austria‘s federal states which is presented in the table on the right-hand page. The point results show how close a provider manages to get to the possible maximum of 1000 points. Kabelplus, which also leads in Lower Austria and in the Burgenland, achieved a top result in Vienna with 983 points. Salzburg AG was the winner in the  federal state of the same name. Liwest ranked first in Upper Austria. With 942 points, their network is rated for rural regions on almost the same level as for the urban agglomerations. On average, the results for urban areas are about 5 to 10 per cent better than those determined in rural locations.

Besides strong regional cable network operators, Magenta showed a respectable performance in our test.

In rural areas, Magenta performed best in Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Styria. A1 performed best in Carinthia at a very narrow margin.

CONCLUSION

The broadband test provides realistic insights into the internet user  experience at home, including the aspects of tariffs and hardware. All in all, the network operators in both countries perform reasonably well – first of all the national winners Deutsche Telekom and Magenta, but also the regional winners in each federal state. The improved measurement values in comparison to last year‘s results prove that the fixed-line networks continously evolve. However, looking at the areal distribution, there is still room for improvement.