Synthetic Benchmark & Real-world Download Speed Tests
Our Analysis of 4G LTE Networks in Singapore Continues ...
We conducted a surprise test on the three telcos a few weeks ago by going on a shopping spree (at least we would like to think so) across six shopping malls in the heart of the popular Orchard Road belt to gauge the performance of their 4G LTE networks. The tests were done on a weekday at different timings as we roamed from one mall to another. Following that stint, we decided to expand our analysis to the five different zones in Singapore (North, South, East, West and Central) to test the network performance in these areas. For this article, we'll be focusing on the northern sector of our island.
Speed Test Parameters
To conduct an independent analysis, we got hold of three 4G SIM cards and all three telcos are completely unaware of these tests. This is to ensure we're able to report findings that are as close as possible to what you would experience when using your respective telco's 4G LTE service.
In our previous rounds of 4G LTE network tests last year, we conducted them using the Sony Xperia Z. This time, we used the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Using three of these phones, we dedicated each phone to test each of the three telco's 4G LTE data service. We then subjected the three telcos' 4G LTE networks to the following tests in each location:
- Pinging a local server (Singapore, NewMedia Express) via the Speedtest.net app to check its download and upload speeds
- Downloading a 18.8MB PDF document from Dropbox
- Downloading a 20MB MP4 file from Gmail
The above-mentioned tests were conducted at five different heartland malls in the North
- Causeway Point (Woodlands)
- North Point (Yishun)
- AMK Hub (Ang Mo Kio)
- Junction 8 (Bishan)
- Nex (Serangoon)
Before you read on, here are some important points you need to keep in mind while scanning through our performance findings:
- Prevailing network conditions will and always be affecting the speeds you will get on your device. For example, the data traffic and number of users in a certain location can play major roles in shaping the user experience.
- The tests were conducted at different locations at different timings, therefore actual performance may differ.
- All three telcos are constantly upgrading their network infrastructures based on their own plans and customers' feedback, therefore the speeds and results you see here may differ.
- The phone model used is also one of the main factors influencing the network test outcome. We compared the first three 4G LTE smartphones in June last year and found that the hardware and software optimizations can lead to performance discrepancies among devices.
- Based on all the above pointers, the aim of this article is not meant to determine the best network among the three teclcos. Instead, the main objective of this article is to have an overview of the 4G LTE coverage and throughput across the three telcos from a general assessment point of view.
1) Synthetic Benchmark: Speedtest.net
The first test was to determine the latency, download and upload speeds. We used the Speedtest.net app as it is one of the most widely used apps for testing mobile Internet speeds. We ran the app on the New Media Express server three times to get the average score.
Points to note:
M1: Its 4G LTE network currently supports theoretical download speeds of up to 75Mbps and upload speeds of up to 37Mbps. Its typical download speeds at fixed locations is 10.4Mbps to 40.7Mbps.
The typical download speed range refers to the range of download speeds that users can experience 80% of the time based on specific test conditions and parameters that are stipulated on www.m1.com.sg/MBBspeeds. Testing time frame: July to September 2013
SingTel: Its 4G LTE network currently supports theoretical download speeds of up to 75Mbps. Its typical download speeds range from 7.5Mbps to 42Mbps for 80% of the time, over a 24-hour period at various locations with 4G (LTE) coverage. Testing time frame: April to June 2013. For selected supported handsets, SingTel's 4G LTE network can support theoretical download speeds of up to 150Mbps.
StarHub: Its 4G LTE network currently supports theoretical download speeds of up to 75Mbps and offers typical download speeds of between 11Mbps to 40Mbps 80% of the time at an outdoor stationary location.
|Causeway Point||49.98 (indoor)
|North Point||33.79 (indoor)
|AMK Hub||34.92 (indoor)
|Junction 8||48.14 (indoor)
|Causeway Point||33.57 (indoor)
|North Point||9.12 (indoor)
|AMK Hub||13.45 (indoor)
|Junction 8||8.91 (indoor)
|Causeway Point||25.3 (indoor)
|North Point||36.3 (indoor)
|AMK Hub||31.7 (indoor)
|Junction 8||31.7 (indoor)
Based on our findings from Speedtest.net, it seems that it's a close fight between M1 and SingTel. Unlike the throughput tests done in the Orchard road stretch, the results between both telcos are much closer this time round. However M1 once again had the lowest latency across all test locations.
Do note that these results are not indicative of their true network capabilities as there are many factors out of our control that can affect the outcome.
2) Real-world Download Speed Test: Dropbox Test
Our second test involved downloading a 18.8MB PDF from Dropbox, arguably the most widely used cloud storage service used to share files.
|Causeway Point||20.38 (indoor)
|North Point||24.91 (indoor)
|Junction 8||22.21 (indoor)
3) Real-world Download Speed Test: Gmail Test
Our third test involved downloading a 20MB MP4 file from Gmail to mimic a typical scenario of downloading email attachments on a mobile phone.
|Causeway Point||18.85 (indoor)
|North Point||42.56 (indoor)
|AMK Hub||24.25 (indoor)
If you've noticed, some of the timings are really odd (e.g. the time taken to download the file from Dropbox outdoors at North Point and AMK Hub for StarHub took longer than usual.) As the files were downloaded from external servers, it is highly likely that the downloading process was subjected to many variables such as server location and available bandwidth (from the sender in the other end).
This is further explained in our previous article on SingTel 4G LTE for smartphones, where we saw faster downloading speeds on SingTel Store & Share cloud storage service which has local servers and is optimized for faster speeds.
As far as the real-world tests are concerned, SingTel seems to have a slight overall lead in this comparison. As iterated throughout this article, the results reflected here do not represent the actual performance of the mobile network for everyone.
Network infrastructure upgrades and improvements are always a work in progress for the telcos, so the reported outcome in this feature article is only valid for the period of our testing. We hope the results are a useful baseline of comparison and information, but beware that device type used and its underlying hardware can drastically affect the outcome.