Breakdown of the ten most populous cities across Mexico
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Network congestion represents one of the greatest problems that mobile operators need to manage on a day to day basis. Around the world, increasing subscriber load and data traffic means that during peak hours, operators may find themselves struggling to maintain the same network quality as during off-peak times. One way to measure this is in the change in average download speed, one of the clearest indicators of changing performance. By looking at the percentage change in this metric between different cities and operators, Tutela can reveal which areas appear most affected by network congestion.
It is important to note that a network with more congestion is not necessarily worse than a network with less congestion (as a congested network experiencing a speed reduction may still be faster than another, less congested one)-, but instead indicates that the load on a particular network is causing a change in performance. Areas with high network congestion are likely to need investment in future to avoid potential network quality problems as data traffic volume increases, for example, as more people watch HD video on their mobiles. This could include additional cell site densification, spectrum deployment or network infrastructure upgrades to manage load.
Across Mexico’s 10 largest cities, congestion (as measured by the percentage decrease in peak versus off-peak performance) was relatively low, ranging from just 1.3% through to 5.6%. Indeed, for some operators in some cities, networks even sped up during peak hours.To put Mexico’s results in perspective, Mexico City, which has a comparable population and population density to New York, experienced a slow-down of 4.1%. Meanwhile, New York’s networks experienced a 23% decrease in overall average download speed during peak hours. Part of this is likely due to data load; data usage is significantly lower in Mexico’s cities than the USA -- on average, mobile users in Mexico City used 68% less mobile data than mobile users in New York based on our panel, which could account for the lower rate of congestion in Mexico’s cities. This indicates that the current network infrastructure already in place in Mexico is more than suitable for handling an increase in users or an increase in plans with higher data allowances.
On a city-by-city basis, Tijuana and Monterrey both had the lowest network congestion based on the percentage change in download speed between peak and off-peak hours, with Monterrey boasting both the fastest peak and off-peak download speeds overall among the ten cities tested.
Despite Guadalajara having the second-fastest peak and off-peak average download speed, the city experienced the worst congestion with a 5.6% drop in download speed. Puebla, which had the second-highest level of network slowdown, also had the slowest network speeds both on- and off-peak.
One common explanation given for network congestion is simply that users are using more data per day than the network can easily support. However, this is often too simplistic an interpretation. In the case of Mexico, three of the four top cities with the lowest percentage decrease in speeds also had the highest average mobile data usage per user per day. Similarly, Nezahualcoyotl had the lowest daily data usage per user, yet ranked seventh out of 10 for network congestion.
Even within individual cities, the picture was often complicated. Amongst the 10 largest cities in Mexico, Movistar had the most consistent download speed between peak and off-peak times in six cities, Telcel in three, and then AT&T in one (Juarez).
Taking a closer look at the five largest cities also echoed the national trend that the fastest networks may not necessarily be the least congested. In both Ecatepec and Mexico City, where Movistar was the fastest network during on-peak hours, Telcel's network had the more consistent download speed.