Mobile Phones Guide

Year-End Review of Singapore 4G LTE Networks - Western Zone

Synthetic Benchmark & Real-world Download Speed Tests

Our Analysis of 4G LTE Networks in Singapore Continues to the West ...

By now you might have noticed that we've been conducting a series of LTE networks assessment articles such as our surprise test on the three telcos across six shopping malls in the heart of Orchard Road's popular shopping beltthe northern, southern and eastern territories and today, we continue our investigation at the western 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 media file from Gmail

The above-mentioned tests were conducted at four different malls in the West:-

  • Lot One (Choa Chu Kang)
  • JCube (Jurong East)
  • Jem (Jurong East)
  • Jurong Point Shopping Mall (Boon Lay)

Before you read on, here are some important points you need to keep in mind while scanning through our performance findings:

  1. 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.
  2. The tests were conducted at different locations at different timings, therefore actual performance may differ.
  3. 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.
  4. The phone model used 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.
  5. 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.

Download Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor Test Unless Otherwise Stated
  M1 SingTel StarHub
Lot One 15.41 17.68 10.19
JCube 39.60 29.44 28.81
Jem 24.63 34.86 24.31
Jurong Point 31.18 (indoor)
20.47 (outdoor)
31.30 (indoor)
29.06 (outdoor)
17.41 (indoor)
8.86 (outdoor)

 

Upload Speeds (Mbps) - Indoor Test Unless Otherwise Stated
  M1 SingTel StarHub
Lot One 33.33 9.90 7.90
JCube 17.20 11.72 9.39
Jem 11.91 20.90 10.43
Jurong Point 10.45 (indoor)
17.99 (outdoor)
15.99 (indoor)
14.67 (outdoor)
10.89 (indoor)
11.04 (outdoor)

 

Ping (ms) - Indoor Test Unless Otherwise Stated
  M1 SingTel StarHub
Lot One 69.0 44.3 54.3
JCube 33.7 82.3

87.3

Jem 67.3 77.3 35.7 (indoor)
Jurong Point 49.3 (indoor)
44.7 (outdoor)
51.0 (indoor)
44.3 (outdoor)
38.3 (indoor)
48.3 (outdoor)

Based on our findings from Speedtest.net, it seems like SingTel has the lead in the download category while tying with M1 in the upload category. However, 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 document from Dropbox, arguably the most widely used cloud storage service used to share files.

Time Taken (secs) to Download 18.8MB PDF from Dropbox - Indoor Test Unless Otherwise Stated
  M1 SingTel StarHub
Lot One 46.48 18.84 33.28
JCube 35.40 23.54 38.00
Jem 24.14 27.74 40.28
Jurong Point  19.29 (indoor)
13.56 (outdoor)
26.03 (indoor)
22.63 (outdoor) 
 16.12 (indoor)
25.38 (outdoor)

 

3) Real-world Download Speed Test: Gmail Test

Our third test involved downloading a 20MB MP4 media file from Gmail to mimic a typical scenario of downloading email attachments on a mobile phone.

Time Taken (secs) to Download 20MB MP4 from Gmail - Indoor Test Unless Otherwise Stated
  M1 SingTel StarHub
Lot One 15.95 14.40 32.51
JCube 17.61 14.43 11.28
Jem 14.40  14.85  15.10
Jurong Point

21.33 (indoor)
19.88 (outdoor)

10.99 (indoor)
23.58 (outdoor)
13.49 (indoor)
16.70 (outdoor)

Since all test files were downloaded from external servers, note that it's 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.

 

Closing Remarks

As far as the real-world tests are concerned, it's a close fight between all three telcos as none of them came out strongly ahead of the other. The throughput tests from Speedtest.net however, seemed to point that M1 and SingTel were both a notch ahead of StarHub. 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.

We're not done yet with our series of LTE network test results, so stay tuned for more updates in the following days!