Wednesday 5 August 2020

Excellent Video / Gaming Experience on 4G has set High Expectations for 5G in Austria

Austria’s very competitive mobile market is dominated by the three operators:
  • 3 (Drei) Austria (Orange and "3" merged in 2013 into one network and the Orange brand name was dropped, but still two different "3" networks are shown when you make a scan).
  • Magenta Telekom (T-Mobile was rebranded to Magenta Telekom in May 2019 as a result of the merger with the cable-company UPC.) 
  • Telekom Austria’s own unit A1. 
However, the market also benefits from a growing number of new entrants in the MVNO sector, which collectively have about 7% of the market by subscribers. The growth in the MVNO sector is partly due to regulatory concessions by which 3 Austria, as a condition of its take-over of Orange Austria, was obliged to provide a third of its network capacity to support up to 16 MVNOs.

Mobile coverage is excellent for a country with difficult topography and similar to Switzerland on a very high level. In 4G/LTE all three networks cover more than 98%. This survey follows the historical order mostly used in the country and is no ranking. 5G/NR was launched on all three networks in 2019/2020 but isn't open to pre-paid customers for now.

The competitive environment has led to relatively low ARPU for operators, as well as some of the region’s lowest tariffs for consumers. The operators’ LTE networks have benefited from regulatory measures which have allowed operators to refarm existing 2G and 3G spectrum for LTE, while spectrum in the 700MHz has also been set aside for mobile broadband use once this band is released from broadcasters.

In March 2019, the regulator concluded an auction of spectrum in the 3.4-3.6Hz range to be used for 5G services. Investment among MNOs has been focussed on 5G, and by early 2020 5G services were available in a large number of localities. A multi-spectrum auction was planned for mid-2020 including the sale of the 700MHz, 1500MHz and 2100MHz bands however this has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Drei Austria (called 'drei' spoken like 'dry' for 3) used to be the smallest network in the country until they bought Orange and merged in 2013 to become a very competitive player. 4G/LTE is on 1800 MHz (B3) and 2100 MHz (B1) nationwide as well as 900MHz (B8), 2600 MHz (B7) & 2600 MHz (TDD B38) in some areas and covers already 98% of population.

Their market share is now on par with T-Mobile and network coverage and speeds are on par with A1 in 2017 on a high level. In the meantime, Drei has opened 4G/LTE for most of their prepaid plans. They offer the lowest rates of any network operator. 3 offers domestic roaming with the "3-AT" (Magenta 2G) network.

 Drei ended last year with approximately 100 5G base stations across the country. Some of the cities in which the operator provides 5G are Linz, Pörtschach, Wörgl, Leoben, as well as in parts of Graz and Vienna.

At ZTE’s Global Wireless User Congress and 5G Summit, the Chinese vendor and Drei Austria also jointly demonstrated what they claim is the industry’s first end-to-end network slicing operation. One smart bionic mechanical dog equipped with 5G CPE for a data connection showed different potential application scenarios, such as rescuing, security patrol and guarding home. Together with 8k UHD video, drone and high-speed download services, a panoramic view of the future life with 5G was shaped (see video above).

Deutsche Telekom rebranded T-Mobile Austria to the Magenta brand in May 2019. The new operator is called Magenta Telekom and is considered to have good coverage within the country on 4G, GSM and UMTS, slightly behind A1 and Drei, but still on a generally high level. 4G/LTE is available on 800 MHz (B20) nationwide except for some bigger cities, 1800 MHz (B3) for smaller and bigger cities, 2100 MHz (B1) in more and more places as well as 2600 MHz (B7) in bigger cities. It covers 97% of the population in 2019.

T-Mobile Austria spent 57 million euros at the Austrian spectrum auction and launched 5G services in March 2019, activating the first 25 5G base stations, primarily in rural regions. And announced around a billion euros in total between 2018 and 2021 to guarantee that Austria has a powerful broadband infrastructure, both mobile and landline.

T-Mobile is already offering 5G coverage at over 600 locations across the country, the operator said in a release. Their 5G coverage currently reaches around 25% of the country’s households and businesses.T-Mobile Austria expects to deploy 5G in 1,200 locations in all federal provinces by the end of this year, resulting in a nationwide coverage of 40%.

A1 Telekom Austria is still the biggest telecommunication provider in the country with a very high standard. 4G/LTE is available on 800 MHz (B20) nationwide, 1800 MHz (B3) in smaller and bigger cities as well as 2600 MHz (B7) in bigger cities, covering 98% of population in 2019.

A1 had commercially launched its 5G services in January 2020. At the time of the launch, the carrier said its 5G network will cover 350 locations across 129 municipalities in Austria. The operator claimed its “A1 5Giganetwork” will be the largest 5G network in Austria, spanning 54,000 square kilometer. A1 had acquired 5G spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band in March 2019.

According to the most recent Open Signal report on Austria the mobile network experience shows that the country’s mobile experience is very mature, with users seeing high 4G Availability in excess of 90% and fast sub-35ms latencies. Download speeds are also impressive, ranging from 46.8 Mbps for users on A1 to 29.2 Mbps on Magenta, while users across all three networks have observed an Excellent Video Experience.

Mobile gaming has become increasingly important to operators, with many of them, including 3, looking to cloud gaming as a use for the latest 5G networks. Opensignal’s latest metric, Games Experience is a measure of how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator’s network. 

Users on all three of Austria’s nationwide networks observed a Good Games Experience. This means most users deemed the experience acceptable. It also indicates that the gameplay experience is generally controllable and the user receives immediate feedback between their actions and the outcomes in the game. Most users did not experience a delay between their actions and the game.

All three of Austria’s nationwide operators have launched 5G and while it will take some time for it to be rolled out across the country, it will be interesting to see what further improvements greater 5G  availability brings to the Austrian mobile network experience.

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