Malaysia's disparity in mobile network connectivity
By Digital News Asia December 19, 2019
- Users in thinly populated rural areas connect to 4G just 44% of the time
- Highest 3G/4G availability of 98.4 % is on unifi in the most populated area
IN OPENSIGNAL’S last analysis, they found that Malaysian users in thinly populated rural areas connect to 4G just 44% of the time.
Now, they have delved deeper into the existing urban-rural disparity to understand users’ mobile network experience while connecting to 3G and 4G services on Malaysia’s five major operators’ networks — Celcom, DiGi, Maxis, U Mobile, and unifi.
Opensignal found that users on Celcom’s network enjoyed the highest connectivity in densely populated more urban administrative regions with 4G availability of over 90%, while the time connected to 4G dropped to almost 75% for U Mobile’s users.
And this difference widened further in scarcely populated rural regions, where Celcom users enjoyed nearly 75% 4G availability, while U Mobile users could only connect to 4G services about 40% of the time.
Also, they investigated 4G availability experienced by users on all five operators’ networks across the country and classified 144 districts from 13 states and three federal territories into four distinct categories based on their population density by using the latest census data from the Malaysian Government Open Data:
- Category 1 — Up to 50 people per sq. km
- Category 2 — 50 to 100 people per sq. km
- Category 3 — 100 to 300 people per sq. km
- Category 4 — More than 300 people per sq. km
Opensignal’s measurements show that users on Celcom’s network enjoyed the highest 4G Availability across all areas regardless of their population densities, with users in the most populated regions (Category 4) being able to connect to 4G over 90% of the time, followed by users on Maxis, unifi, DiGi and U Mobile, who could connect to 4G services 86.1%, 84.4%, 82.7%, 86.1% and 74.5% of the time on average respectively.
As we move from highly populated urban regions to sparsely populated rural regions, users’ 4G availability decreased on each of the five networks, with users in the most sparsely populated areas (Category 1) being able to connect to 4G services about 75% of the time on Celcom’s network, followed by users on Maxis, DiGi, unifi and U Mobile, who could connect to 4G just 63.5%, 58.8%, 48.2% and 40.6% of the time.
On the other hand, when they examined the time users spent connected to all mobile data networks (3G and 4G services combined), this disparity diminished.
Opensignal saw much higher 3G/4G availability across the board: almost all five operators scored above 90% across regions with all four categories of population density, with U Mobile being the only exception to score 86.4 % in the least populated regions (Category 1).
The highest 3G/4G Availability of 98.4 % was observed by on unifi’s network in the most densely populated area (Category 4) followed by Celcom’s network with 98.1%.
While Malaysian operators have shown some rapid improvements in 4G availability, these measurements show that Malaysian users in less populated areas continue to depend more on older and slower 3G technology.