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2019│04│02 – The Mobile Network Test in The Netherlands 2019
Umlaut and connect have been testing the Dutch mobile networks since 2015. Given the high network performance, it is remarkable that the results still have improved over the years.
Another constant in the Netherlands are frequent mergers and acquisitions as well as similar changes in the market environment. How will the now three Dutch operators perform this time?
RESULTS IN A NUTSHELL
The umlaut connect Mobile Benchmark in the Netherlands has traditionally shown strong results. This trend continues in 2019, resulting in three “outstanding” grades with two of the contenders keeping the high scores they achieved in the previous year and one of them even improving them.
Umlauts‘s network benchmarks are widely accepted as being highly objective and defining the de-facto industry standard. The carefully designed methodology of the 2019 benchmark in the Netherlands combines drivetests and walktests for executing detailed voice and data measurements under controlled circumstances with a sophisticated crowdsourcing approach. This provides profound insights into the overall coverage of voice, data and 4G services, real-world User Download Speeds and Data Service Availability.
Umlaut‘s holistic approach to network benchmarking includes both drivetest and walktest measurements as well as crowdsourcing. The drive and walktests allow for evaluating the cutting edge of the networks‘ capabilities. Crowdsourcing unveils the service quality, performance and coverage actually experienced by the users. We have thoroughly weighted these components in order to give a realistic and authoritative assessment of the rated networks‘ true potential and performance.
T-Mobile clearly leads in all tested disciplines including the newly introduced crowd score and achieves the highest score level ever determined in our Mobile Benchmarks. KPN shows the biggest score improvement in comparison to its results from the previous year. This operator scores slightly better than Vodafone in the Voice and Crowd categories and is particularly strong in the Voice tests in smaller towns and in the Voice and Data tests on connecting roads. Vodafone slightly outperforms KPN in the data category and shows strong results in the walktests in bigger cities.
Especially in the data measurements conducted on Dutch trains, the operators leave some room for improvement – however, compared to some neighbouring countries, they still perform very strong in this discipline.
The volume of transmitted data is growing rapidly, which emphasises the importance of data connectivity. Which operator in the Netherlands manages best to keep up with the increasing demand?
Data connectivity is the most prestigious discipline in our benchmark and also in the operators’ marketing. All three Dutch networks claim to cover a large part of the population with LTE services – the claimed percentages all range in the high nineties. And all three operators are continuing to spend large sums on upgrading and expanding their networks to meet the growing demand – including the installation of early 5G network cells. Today, the Dutch operators have equipped their 4G networks to offer the combination of four or even five LTE carriers in different frequency bands. This “carrier aggregation” is the technical basis for the so-called “4G+” services which theoretically support data rates up 1 Gbps.
The Samsung Galaxy S9, which we used for the measurements, is a so-called LTE category 18 device and can generally benefit from carrier aggregation with download speeds up to 1.2 Gpbs. However, T-Mobile and Vodafone use specific carrier combinations that were not fully supported by the Galaxy S9 with Android Oreo which was used at the time of testing. Users of these networks who upgrade to the latest Android OS version might enjoy even higher data rates. In general, users looking for the fastest possible data rates, should ask their operator for specific device and firmware recommendations.
Umlaut’s Scoring rewards high performance as well as the networks’ availability and stability
The benchmarking of web-page downloads as well as file downloads and uploads rewards fast data rates. Peak data performance was tested in uplink and downlink directions by assessing the amount of data that was transferred within a seven seconds time period. In order to support higher troughputs, these measurements have been conducted with three TCP sockets (see page 13 for more details) At the same time, P3 assesses the networks‘ availability and stability by examining success ratios. Above that, we determined the minimum data rates that are available in 90 per cent of the cases plus the peak data rates that would be surpassed in 10 per cent of the cases. YouTube evaluations concentrate on success ratios, start times and playouts without interruptions as well as the received average video resolution.
Data Results at a Glance
As in the voice category, T-Mobile also ranks best overall in the data category. In all drivetest scenarios, this operator achieved close to 100 per cent of the available points. Vodafone and KPN follow at some distance, but
rank closely together. Vodafone shows the best performance in the big cities walktests, while KPN achieves a particularly high score on the roads.
In 2000, Deutsche Telekom bought a minority of the Dutch mobile network operator Ben, which was later extended to a 100 per cent acquisition. In 2003, Ben was renamed T-Mobile Netherlands, with the brand “Ben“ becoming a “no-frills“ offer within its portfolio. In 2007, T-Mobile NL additionally acquired Orange.
At the end of its fiscal year 2018, T-Mobile Netherlands reported a revenue of 1.3 billion Euros. At the same time, the company completed its acquisition of the smallest Dutch mobile operator, Tele2. By this step, T-Mobile‘s customer base of formerly about 3.2 million mobile subscribers was amended by former Tele2 customers, resulting in a total of 4 million subscribers. At the time of testing, the technical integration of Tele2‘s infrastructure into T-Mobile‘s network had not yet begun – as a first step, former Tele2 customers benefit of national roaming with T-Mobile‘s
cells. As Tele2 did not legally exist anymore, we used SIM cards of T-Mobile only for our measurements. T-Mobile‘s network offers 2G mostly at 1800 MHz, 3G at 900 and 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE at 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz. The company claims a 4G coverage of more than 99 per cent of the population and has been offering VoLTE since October 2017.
T-Mobile is the overall winner – for the fourth time in a row. KPN shows the biggest score improvement in comparison to the previous year, while Vodafone keeps its high performance level.
For the fourth time in a row, T-Mobile is the clear winner of the umlaut connect Mobile Benchmark Netherlands – and it ranks at the highest score level which has ever been achieved in a umlaut connect Mobile Benchmark.
KPN and Vodafone follow behind the winner at some distance. With their scores only two points apart, they show practically the same level of performance. And the fact, that all three Dutch operators achieve the grade “outstanding” clearly emphasises the very high performance level of the Netherland’s mobile networks.
On this very high level, the Benchmark at hand reveals some differences: While
T-Mobile leads in all three assessment categories, KPN performs slightly better than Vodafone in the Voice category, while the ranking order is vice-versa in the Data category. In the Crowdsourced evaluations, Vodafone loses a few points due to a
sligthly elevated level of service degradations in August, September and October 2018. This time, KPN showed the biggest score improvement over its result from the previous year. However, next year the race is open again.
The overall winner of the 2019 P3 connect Mobile Benchmark in the Netherlands is T-Mobile –achieving the highest score level ever determined in our Mobile Benchmarks. T-Mobile clearly leads in all tested disciplines including the newly introduced crowd score and also leads the field in most of the single categories of our assessment.
KPN shows the biggest score improvement compared to its results from the previous year. In a neck-and-neck race with an after all equally strong Vodafone, KPN scored slightly better in the Voice and Crowdsourced categories. KPN scores particularly strong in the Voice tests in smaller towns and in the Data tests on connecting roads
Effectively, the performance of Vodafone is on a par with that of KPN. Vodafone scores slightly better than KPN in the data category and shows particularly strong results in the walktests conducted in bigger cities.
An elevated level of degradations observed during the summer of 2018, costs this operator some points in the crowd score.