One Third Of All Internet Traffic In Austria Is Now Over Cellular

Recently, Tefficient had an interesting post on Twitter in which they stated that in Austria, mobile network traffic is now 53% of the fixed line traffic in the country. An incredible number, could it really be true? And if so, how does that compare to mobile network traffic in other countries? To find out, I had a look at Austria’s telecom regulator report for 2018 and compared the values to those from Germany’s telecom regulator report.

According to Wikipedia, Austria has a population of 8.8 million. In 2018, 3.4 million TB of data were transported over fixed internet connections such as DSL, cable and fiber while 1.7 million TB of data was transported over the networks of the three wireless operators. So yes, the 53% is really true.

Let’s compare these numbers to Germany. With a population of 83 million, i.e. roughly 10 times that of Austria, the amount of data transported in fixed network was 45 million TB in 2018. In mobile networks, about 2 million TBs were transported. In other words, not much more mobile traffic than in Austria but generated by 10 times the number of people. It’s from regulator reports so the numbers are likely to be accurate.

So how come? The major difference between the two countries is, that two network operators in Austria are offering unlimited fixed mobile Internet access for reasonable rates with LTE home routers. For some reason or other, fixed line Internet connectivity adoption is at a low 28% in Austria compared to 41% in Germany based on the number of people and not households. So that’s the difference right there and the reason the numbers are so different.

As a result I would expect that especially during busy hours, mobile data rates in Austria would be significantly lower than in Germany where networks are way less loaded than in Austria. But this doesn’t seem to be the case, the Austrian regulator only notices very little speed decrease during busy hours. Also, network tests carried out annually for telecom magazines show better throughput values for Austrian networks compared to their German counterparts. And this despite the significantly higher load, which I find really puzzling!?

So how could it be? Austria has only 1/10th of the population of Germany but is 1/4 of the size. In other words, population density is much lower, 106 people per km2 in Austria vs. 253 people per km2 in Germany. But one has to factor-in mountainous regions in Austria which are very sparsely populated. Consequently, in most habitable parts of Austria, I would assume that the population density is higher. So how about the number of base stations compared between network operators? In Germany, one network operator claims 30.000 sites while in Austria, the number of one of the network operators must be around 6.000 sites according to these values. This is 1/5 of the German value which makes sense given the 1/4 of the landmass. So while the base station density might be somewhat higher in Austria, it definitely can’t compensate for the order of magnitude of higher load in the network. It also can’t be the amount of spectrum used in Austria that could account for the difference as in Germany, at least two of the network operators have 50-60 MHz on air in cities. Austrian operators are unlikely to have more.

So I’m still puzzled how the network load can be around 5 times higher per base station site in Austria while network speed tests still attest excellent throughput speeds. A bit of a riddle.

One thought on “One Third Of All Internet Traffic In Austria Is Now Over Cellular”

  1. Maybe the users are much closer to the cell centre, so all get significantly higher data rates than cell edge users.

    Alternatively maybe the operators are using much more of their spectrum on many more sites. It is all well and good to say that an operator has 50-60MHz, but this is only on a smaller proportion of sites. If you can equip a high percentage of your sites with 50-60Mhz or spectrum ( including “rural”, then you’ll get much higher throughput than if you have just 10MHz of 800MHz spectrum.

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