Voice services may be less important today – however, customers expect reliable connections when talking on the phone. How do the Dutch networks fulfil these expectations?
As the last Dutch operator, T-Mobile introduced Voice over LTE (VoLTE) in October 2017. So, today all four contenders support this useful technology. VoLTE transmits voice calls as data packets over the 4G connection. This way, the formerly necessary “circuit-switched fallback“, which forced smartphones to switch back to 3G or 2G in order to take or place a phone call, can be avoided. Also, VoLTE codecs potentially support a wider audio bandwidth providing operators with the opportunity to deliver higher speech quality to their customers.
On their tour through the Netherlands, P3‘s two test cars visited 21 cities, of which 16 are counting over 100 000 inhabitants, as well as 31 towns. Also, the cars covered about 3 600 km of connecting roads. Additionally, a walktest team conducted tests in seven cities. For the voice rating, each car carried a total of eight Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones (two per operator). The walktest team carried a total of four Galaxy S7 – one per operator. The phones in the cars always called a counterpart in the other car. The phones carried by the walktest teams called a stationary counterpart. The connected testing equipment registered success ratios, setup times and speech quality. In order to simulate normal smartphone usage, data transfers took place in the background of the test calls.
T-Mobile and Vodafone on par in voice, KPN and Tele2 a little behind
In the voice tests conducted in cities, towns and on connecting roads, it was a neck-and-neck race between T-Mobile and Vodafone. In the drivetests executed in the larger Dutch cities Vodafone scored slightly ahead of T-Mobile. For the KPIs call setup time and speech quality, both contenders achieve the maximum number of available point, so the race in this sector is decided by the call success ratios. With exactly 99.91 per cent, Vodafone scores slightly higher than T-Mobile with 99.88 per cent. In the smaller towns, their scores are on a par. On the connecting roads, T-Mobile scored slightly ahead of Vodafone. So, in the intermediate result of the voice discipline, T-Mobile and Vodafone are on a par, both scoring 396 points.
Compared to the top two, the drive test results of KPN and Tele2 in cities, towns and on connecting roads falls a little behind due to slightly lower call success ratios and speech quality values as well as longer call setup times.
Walktests conducted in seven cities show excellent results of all networks
For the first time, a walktest has been conducted as part of the P3 connect Mobile Benchmark in the Netherlands. The walktest team visited Almere, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Tilburg and Utrecht. The results of their measurements show high success ratios and short call setup times for T-Mobile, Vodafone and KPN. In this discipline, KPN joined the top two contenders – with T-Mobile scoring 100 per cent of the available points in the category, while Vodafone and KPN scored 99 per cent.
Tele2 follows at a little distance, but still achieves 92 per cent of the possible points.
Examining the speech quality observed in our test calls, there is a more distinct ranking order: T-Mobile scores highest, followed closely by Vodafone. Then, there is a little gap with KPN reaching the third and Tele2 reaching the fourth rank. Still, our results point out that smartphone users walking in the large Dutch cities can expect an excellent voice performance from any of their mobile operators.
Voice results in Dutch trains among the best in Europe
In 2018, P3 connect Mobile Benchmark in the Netherlands for the first time also includes tests conducted in railways. In order to perform them, the walktest team took trains to travel between the seven cities listed above. Additionally, they took trains to the very north and the very south of the country (see map on the right-hand side). It is no surprise that the measurement values gathered in the challenging railway scenario fall a little behind compared to the drivetests and the walktests in the cities. Still, the Dutch networks achieve very good results in this discipline. Here, KPN is slightly ahead, while Vodafone and T-Mobile follow at close distance and Tele2 with a little wider gap. The overall results of the train tests however rank the voice connectivity in Dutch trains among the European top group. Similar ratings were achieved in Switzerland. Compared to Germany and Austria, the performance in Dutch trains is by far better.
VOICE RESULTS AT A GLANCE
T-Mobile and Vodafone share the win in the voice discipline. KPN also achieves very good results and was clearly able to improve over its 2017 voice score. Slightly inferior speech quality and longer call setup times prevent an even better score for KPN. Tele2 falls a little behind but still achieves decent voice results.
With the volume of transmitted data permanently growing, the data discipline constantly becomes more important. How do the Dutch operators keep up with the increasing demand resulting from this development?
In order to assess the performance and reliability of data connections, our two drivetest cars carried two smartphones per operator for the data tests: One Samsung Galaxy S7 and one Sony Xperia XZ. This choice was made in order to take the variations into account that result from the interaction of different smartphone types with the different networks. The walktest team carried one Samsung Galaxy S7 per operator. Supporting the LTE category 9, both smartphone types were able to benefit from the so-called aggregation of three LTE carrier frequencies which the Dutch operators offer under the name of 4G+ and which could theoretically transmit up to 450 Mbps. P3‘s testing considers fast throughputs as well as the networks‘ availability and stability. Web page and file downloads or file uploads reward fast speeds, while recording success ratios and assessing YouTube playouts concentrate on reliability aspects. As YouTube streams videos at adaptive bitrates, the average value of the received video resolution is another important performance indicator.
Overall high data performance in large Dutch cities
In the drivetests conducted in the cities, T-Mobile is ahead with 97 percent of the achievable points, but its competitors follow closely. Vodafone and KPN both score 95 per cent, while Tele2 scores 93 per cent of possible points in this category.
T-Mobile and Vodafone ahead in data walktests
The data walktests conducted in seven large Dutch cities (see page 6 for the complete list) yield very similar results. In this category, however, T-Mobile and Vodafone share the top position, and KPN falls marginally behind. Tele2 scores weaker in this discipline, due to slightly lower success ratios. But even the smallest Dutch network still achieves 88 per cent of the possible points.
T-Mobile leads in drivetests in smaller towns, KPN, Vodafone and Tele2 follow closely
In the drivetests performed in the smaller Dutch towns, T-Mobile achieves the highest score and KPN ranks second, while Vodafone and Tele2 follow closely behind. This ranking order can be seen in measurement values like the speeds of file downloads and uploads. All four operators achieve excellent results when it comes to accessing YouTube while driving in smaller towns.
All Dutch operators share very strong results on connecting roads
A similar ranking can be observed on the connecting roads. T-Mobile also leads in this discipline with 99 per cent of the possible points. KPN ranks second with 98 per cent, while Vodafone and Tele2 share the third rank with 97 percent of the achievable points. These results are rather sensational, attesting that Dutch drivers can expect top mobile connectivity on the roads of their country.
T-Mobile and KPN achieve highest scores for data connectivity on Dutch railways
Our test of data connections in Dutch trains again demonstrates the high quality of mobile coverage in the Netherlands. T-Mobile leads the field and even scores higher than in the voice discipline. KPN ranks second but scores a little lower than with its voice connections on trains. Vodafone achieves the third and Tele2 the fourth rank in this discipline. Again, compared to the results in other European trains, the Dutch operators show excellent performances for data connections in trains.
DATA RESULTS AT A GLANCE
T-Mobile also leads the data discipline of this test. Although KPN has lost some points in comparison to its 2017 data results, the largest Dutch operator still ranks second in the discipline. Vodafone achieves the third rank but shows the biggest improvement compared to last year’s data results. Tele2 scores last in this discipline and falls some points behind its 2017 data results, still achieving a very good overall performance in the data discipline.