Best and Worst Network Not Dependent on Number of Cells in Cities

Cell reselection cutI recently reported on a new network study in Germany that  showed once more the significant differences between the four network operators in Germany. So far I thought that one of the main reasons for these differences might be a lower number of cell sites deployed in cities by the lower performing networks. But it turns out that this is not the case.

To verify my assumption, I extended my Cell Logger app available as Android source and executable via a link on this web page and via Google's appstore to not only record cell changes but also the locations where these cell changes happen and the distance from the last cell change. The data can then be put on a map as shown in the picture on the left. I'll shortly release the source and executable of the new version as well, so stay tuned for a follow up post on this.

So with this tool I then took a test drive from Colgone to Bonn which included densly populated areas such as the center of Cologne but also suburban areas and repeated the exercise for all four German networks. The result: To my surprise, all networks have pretty much the same number of cells on that route. In downtown Cologne, there is a cell change about every 300 meters (cell reselection ping pong between up to 5 cells already removed to get the true distance) and in less populated areas around 500 meters on average.

So even the lowest performing network with a significantly lower throughput than the highest performer in the network study linked above have the same number of cell sites. In other words, even the worst performer has the most important asset to improve: Cell site locations.

4 thoughts on “Best and Worst Network Not Dependent on Number of Cells in Cities”

  1. Great study! Thanks for this Martin!

    But I didn’t understand- why would only site location be the most important cause of best vs. worst performer? Why not capacity- number of carriers, air if, Iub especially- and other end to end aspects of network design?

  2. Hi Andy,

    yes, all of that is obviously very important as well. But without having site first you cant do those. And getting a site up and running in the first place takes longest and must be one of the most expensive things. So I assumed they would have fewer ones.


  3. I have got one question: Your measurements show that all networks “have pretty much the same number of cells”. Are you distinguishing gsm and umts cells? Is it important to make that difference with regard to what you are looking at? Or doesn’t it matter at all?


    P.S. Thank you for this interesting blog. I read it frequently since I discovered it a few weeks ago.

  4. Hello Johannes,

    Good point! 95% of the cells monitored were UMTS cells, only in one or two places along my drive test path did the mobile drop to GSM (for all 4 network operators)

    Kind regards,

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