Portuguese mobile networks improve the quality of their services

/ Updated on 19.03.2002

The three Portuguese GSM networks improved the quality of their services between 2000 and 2001, concludes the report on the quality of mobile GSM services issued by the Instituto das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP). During this period, the sound quality of conversations improved substantially. The percentage of calls carried out successfully was the same as in 2000, despite the increase in the number of customers. Coverage is less homogenous, being very good on continental Portugal and requiring urgent attention by operators in the Islands.

The tests, technically designated ''Survey on the Quality of Service of Mobile Networks'', consists of evaluating three basic indicators: Coverage, Accessibility; Sound Quality.

With the report that has now been issued, the ICP intends to create an information and working base for consumers and operators, with the objective of promoting the quality of the services provided by the latter to their customers throughout the country.

Analysis of the results leads to the conclusion that the three GSM networks operating in Portugal provide a good level of coverage and performance overall, and are on the same level or above the level of networks of other European countries that have carried out similar tests. Despite this, there remain areas with bad coverage, mainly as a result of the morphology of the land and the presence of artificial structures that prevent normal radio-electric transmission.

In the Azores and in Madeira, there were two different cases: good signal levels in the major urban centres and poor or no cover by some operators in the less populated areas and on some highways.

Sound Quality is the indicator that improved the most in comparison with 2000. There was a very positive development: throughout the whole Country and all three networks it was observed that in more than 80% of the test calls there was good sound quality. At the other extreme, only 0,5% of connections were classified as 'poor'.

Accessibility, although good overall, was varied. On continental Portugal, the percentage of calls terminating normally reached 95%, both on highways and in the main urban centres.

On the other hand, in the Autonomous regions the indicators for normal termination (Accessibility) were good in urban centres, but worrying on highways and in less populated areas. In some specific cases, the percentage of aborted calls was very high. This situation is owing to the fact that the networks of some operators do not cover some areas. That demonstrates the necessity to carry out additional investment efforts.

The tests were carried out between the 16th of April and the 27th of June 2001, in the Lisbon and Oporto areas, in all district capitals, in the more populous areas of the Azores and Madeira, and on the main Portuguese highways.

For the purpose, 19,834 kilometres were travelled and 40,037 calls were made, for a duration of 560 hours. In Lisbon and Oporto areas the tests were carried out during the busiest times of the morning and evening, i.e. between 8am and 11.30am and between 4.30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Each successful test call lasted exactly 100 seconds, which is approximately the average duration of each call carried out by a mobile terminal in 2000. Calls were carried out from mobile to fixed and fixed to mobile, by the use of constantly moving dual band terminals.

Specific equipment was used for this type of tests, dispensing any human intervention or subjectivity. Besides this, the tests were unbiased since all calls were made simultaneously to all three operators, by the above mentioned equipment. The geographic references of all connections were recorded.

Measurements were carried out in Aveiro, Beja, Braga, Bragança, Castelo Branco, Coimbra, Évora, Faro, Guarda, Leiria, Portalegre, Santarém, Setúbal, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real, Viseu, Oporto, Gondomar, Maia, Matosinhos, Vila Nova de Gaia, Lisbon, Amadora, Cascais, Loures, Oeiras, Sintra, Almada, Seixal, and Odivelas; on the Islands of Madeira, São Miguel, Terceira, Pico, and Faial; on the following motorways: the A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 and A6; on the following major highways: the IP1, IP2, IP3, IP4, IP5, and IP6; and on the following complementary highways: the IC1 and IC19.

The Coverage indicator was evaluated according to one of three classifications: good coverage, poor coverage and no coverage. Regarding Accessibility, calls that lasted 100 seconds once a connection had been established, were considered as terminating normally, and all others were considered aborted calls. Sound Quality was analysed by using the very same simulated pre-recorded conversation for all the calls, and the following classification was used: Excellent, Good, Acceptable, Poor and Bad.

Although these tests were exhaustive, it is not possible to reproduce the personal experience of each user of mobile services. Therefore their precise range is limited to the actual state of the networks at the moment and in the places the tests were carried out.