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The mobile Network test in the netherlands

For the second time now P3 communications and connect have carried out a mobile network benchmark in the Netherlands. Which of the four candidates takes the lead this time? 

For mobile network operators, the Netherlands have quite favourable characteristics: The country is relatively flat and densely populated. Both properties prove helpful when it comes to providing dense and powerful mobile voice and data coverage. So the Dutch population has good reason to be happy about their mobile networks.

But how capable are the four mobile networks from KPN, T-Mobile, Vodafone and Tele2 in fact? And which one of these competitors actually delivers the best performance? These were the questions that P3 communications and connect wanted to answer in depth.

Second Dutch mobile benchmark

P3 communications, based in Aachen, Germany, is widely regarded as being the first port of call for professional and trustworthy mobile network testing in the world. The company regularly conducts tests in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, Spain and many other countries. This is why connect magazine, Europe's biggest special interest magazine covering telecommunications, has chosen P3 communications as its partner for mobile network benchmarking all over Europe.

The mobile network test at hand is the second one that the two partners have conducted in the Netherlands. In the first Dutch mobile benchmark, published in mid-2015, the tested operators delivered convincing results. That’s why everybody involved was curious to see if they had improved since then. Read all detailed results on the following pages. 

 


Telephony

As welcome as LTE is for data communication – for telephony, it makes things a lot more complicated. But even if voice calls may become less important, customers still expect top telephony quality. Which Dutch operator makes the best out of these conditions? 

 

LTE has been developed for fast data communication. Telephony played a smaller role in the standard and was originally only implemented by means of “circuit switched fallback“ (CSFB): In order to call someone or to receive a call, maybe right in the middle of a data session, the smartphone has to switch back to the older circuit-switched networks, UMTS or GSM. This process bears some technical challenges.

The test procedure was designed considering this background: A total of four P3 teams drove through a large number of big and small Dutch cities as well as the roads connecting them. Each car was equipped with eight Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphones that would permanently call an identical counterpart in its “partner car“, thus generating more than 50,000 speech samples per operator. About half of the test calls took place between two phones that were set to “4G preferred“ mode, while the other

half took place between one “4G preferred“ handset and one preferring 3G. So when at least one of the handsets was registered in a 4G/LTE network, this would invoke the complicated CSFB procedure.

Voice in big cities

All four Dutch networks delivered excellent test results in the voice discipline. In big cities, T-Mobile, KPN and Tele2 achieved stability results of over 99 percent, with Vodafone following closely at 98.8 percent. T-Mobile scores the win with very good call setup times and excellent speech quality, with Vodafone and KPN following narrowly behind.

Tele2 is the only Dutch operator that lacks the beneficial HD voice feature in their own network and therefore achieves a slightly inferior speech quality. Even when Tele2 subscribers actually use the T-Mobile network by means of “national roaming“, they are still not admitted to using HD voice, as T-Mobile offers this feature voice only to their own customers and not to roaming Tele2 subscribers. 

One computer array in each car was used to control twelve Samsung smart- phones for the measurements. 

One computer array in each car was used to control twelve Samsung smart- phones for the measurements. 

Voice in small cities and on connecting roads

All four Dutch networks delivered excellent test results in the voice discipline. In big cities, T-Mobile, KPN and Tele2 achieved stability results of over 99 percent, with Vodafone following closely at 98.8 percent. T-Mobile scores the win with very good call setup times and excellent speech quality, with Vodafone and KPN following narrowly behind.

Tele2 is the only Dutch operator that lacks the beneficial HD voice feature in their own network and therefore achieves a slightly inferior speech quality. Even when Tele2 subscribers actually use the T-Mobile network by means of “national roaming“, they are still not admitted to using HD voice, as T-Mobile offers this feature voice only to their own customers and not to roaming Tele2 subscribers. 

VoLTE approaching in 2016

As already mentioned, the fallback to the older 3G or 2G standards is complicated. But with “Voice over LTE“ (VoLTE) there is a more straightforward alternative. Right now, the Dutch operators are preparing to introduce this technology into their networks. It is expected to launch later in 2016, so the next test of the Dutch networks is likely to include it. 

 


 

The Koninklijke PTT Nederland N.V. emerged from the privatisation of the formerly state-owned PTT in 1998. At the end of 2015, KPN is believed to have had about 8 million mobile customers. In its financial results for 2015, the company quotes a mobile market share in the Netherlands of 43 percent. Regardless of the precise numbers, KPN is the largest Dutch mobile operator. For 2015, the company reported a revenue of 1.5 billion Euros in the consumer mobile segment, 1.9 billion Euros in the consumer residential sector and another 2.7 billion Euros in the business segment. The company focuses on marketing its KPN brand, however with Simyo, Telfort and Ortel it also has offerings in the “no-frills“ segment. KPN operates 2G networks at 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G at 900 and 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE at 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz. The company claims a 99 percent 4G availability all over the country. Where KPN already offers carrier aggregation, the theoretical maximum speed of its LTE network is 225 Mbit/s (“4G+“). Otherwise it is at 150 Mbit/s. 


 

Vodafone Libertel B.V., the Dutch subsidiary of the Vodafone Group that is operating all over Europe and beyond, acquired the formerly independent operator Libertel in 2003. Today, Vodafone is the second largest mobile operator in the Netherlands with a total of 5.3 million mobile customers or a mobile market share of about 32 percent. Its revenue in the 2014/2015 fiscal year was about 1.9 billion Euros. Vodafone Netherlands also offers landline internet access and IPTV to its Dutch customers. The company operates 2G networks (GSM, GPRS, EDGE) at 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G (UMTS up to HSPA+) at 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE at 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz. Vodafone claims to offer more than 95 percent coverage with 4G (up to 150 Mbit/s). In 110 communities the company offers “4G+“ with carrier aggregation of its 800 and 1800 MHz bands. What is more, at the end of 2015 Vodafone Netherlands reported tests with aggregating its 1800 MHz spectrum with 20 MHz of the unlicensed 5 GHz band, reportedly resulting in a maximum data rate of 274 Mbit/s. 


 

In 2000, the German company T-Mobile bought a minority of the Dutch mobile network operator Ben, which two years later was extended to a 100 percent acquisition. In 2003, Ben was renamed T-Mobile Netherlands, with the brand “Ben“ becoming a “no- frills“ offer within their portfolio. In 2007, T-Mobile Netherlands additionally acquired the operator Orange which until then had belonged to France Télécom. T-Mobile NL is a full subsidiary of the German Deutsche Telekom. At the end of its fiscal year 2014, the company reported 3.9 million customers and a revenue of 1.6 billion Euros. This equals a mobile market share of roughly 24 per- cent. T-Mobile Netherlands operates 2G networks at 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G at 900 and 2100 MHz and 4G/LTE at 900, 1800 and 2600 MHz. After a nation-wide modernisation of its network, the company now claims a 4G coverage of more than 99 percent of the Dutch population and also claims to have most 4G antennas in the country. With carrier aggregation, T-Mobile’s LTE network offers a maximum speed of 225 MBit/s. 


 

The Swedish telecommunications operator Tele2 acquired the former Versatel N.V. in 2005. The resulting Tele2 Netherlands Holding N.V. is a 75 percent subsidiary of its Swedish parent company. Originally acting as a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), Tele2 nowadays operates its own infrastructure and has a portfolio of fixed telephony, data, internet and mobile telephony products. At the end of 2015 Tele2 reported 844,000 mobile, 344,000 fixed broadband and 55,000 fixed telephony subscribers. Tele2 operates its own LTE net- work at 800 and 2600 MHz with its coverage concentrated on larger Dutch communities. Tele2 plans to reach an almost complete 4G coverage of the Netherlands in 2016. Also, in some parts of the country, it already uses carrier aggregation with a maximum data rate of 225 Mbit/s. As the company had to pay considerably lower license fees for its 4G spectrum than its competitors, it can offer aggressive prices. Tele2 cooperates with T-Mobile NL by location sharing as well as national roaming for voice services.