Speed isn’t everything when it comes to mobile video as Europe leads the way

Speed isn’t everything when it comes to video performance on mobile networks, says OpenSignal, which found that European operators in general deliver a superior experience to their global rivals.

With video a major source of mobile traffic around the world, streaming is becoming an increasingly important metric for network benchmarking and in terms of how consumers choose an operator.

OpenSignal, which aggregated data from more than eight million devices, ranked countries out of 100 based on how quickly video loaded and how it stalled or stuttered at various resolutions.

Mobile video performance

The most interesting finding is that once a threshold of 15Mbps is reached, speed has little impact on the quality of video performance.

This means that South Korea, which has the world’s fastest mobile networks, ranks only 16th in the video index, while European nations concerned about falling behind in the race to 5G, perform well. Eight of the top ten nations are European, with the Czech Republic occupying the top spot.

However France was the bottom ranked European nation, while Germany, Italy and the UK all finished in the bottom half. OpenSignal says this reflects a wider trend in more ‘developed’ European countries where 4G speeds and availability are stagnating and even falling.

It says that the prevalence of unlimited data plans, the availability of new spectrum, aging infrastructure and low levels of investment amid intense competition and declining revenues could be contributory factors in some of these countries.

In the UK, EE and Vodafone offer the best video experience with a rating of 62, while O2 scored 58 and Three 56.

However no country achieved a rating of ‘Excellent’, which was 75 or above.

“Europe put in a particularly impressive performance in our video experience analysis, beating the East Asian mobile powerhouses at their own game. But none of the countries we analysed made it into the Excellent range, meaning the mobile industry still has work to do when it comes to a great user video experience,” concluded OpenSignal.

“We've seen that countries with extremely powerful LTE networks in terms of speed and availability aren't necessarily providing the best video experience, and if Europe's operators want to break into the Excellent category, then building out faster and faster LTE-Advanced networks isn't necessarily the answer.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.