The 4G speed in Nepal is encouraging if not convincing. It has transformed our internet behavior. We can count on it to download large files, stream videos, or play games on the go. However, its speed has divided consumers. Why? Because not everyone gets the same speed as it promises. In this post, you will find out how much speed you get with 4G in Nepal and the several factors affecting your data experience.
Theoretically, 4G can deliver up to 1,000 Mbps in download speed. But that is just theoretical and remains elusive to real-world experience. In ideal conditions, users can expect anywhere between 10 Mbps above up to 100 Mbps at peak. The discrepancies in 4G speed come from many influencing factors at play.
Some of these factors are foreign such as network signal strength and physical barriers which weaken the 4G data speed. And then, there are internal influencers such as hardware and technologies like Carrier Aggregation. Here, we will delve into these variables which influence the 4G speed in Nepal.
Carrier Aggregation enhances 4G Speed
Carrier Aggregation is an innovative technology in the 4G cellular standard. Carriers use this technology to enhance the broadband performance of 4G LTE+ supported devices. Shortly CA, Carrier Aggregation involves combining two or more available LTE bands into one single channel. The result is – increased bandwidth and the bit rate meaning a better 4G speed on the users’ end.
In 4G LTE, operators can use up to 5CC (Carrier Components) CA. Whereas telecom operators can combine at least two or more carrier Components to roll out a much better 4G speed.
Ntc support CA in two bands: 1800 MHz (Band 3), and 800 MHz (Band).
|4G scenario||Normal speed||Peak Speed|
|With Carrier Aggregation||100 Mbps||200 Mbps +|
|Without Carrier Aggregation||20 Mbps||100 Mbps|
Ncell operates 4G LTE in two frequency bands – 900 MHz and 1800 MHz bands. It qualifies the operator for Carrier Aggregation but it has not introduced the technology yet.
There’s a catch for Carrier Aggregation to work!
Unfortunately, the benefits from Carrier Aggregation don’t come by default to everyone. First, the operator itself must execute this technology. Then, the individual devices must also have support for this. CA support comes from the chipset level. Although various phone brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung, and Apple have CA-compatible handsets, some of them disable it through software for technical reasons. That means devices with Carrier Aggregation support are still few in Nepal.
To know whether your device supports Carrier Aggregation or not, you can find detailed information on this post.
Use of MIMO
4G LTE uses another technology called MIMO – Multiple Input Multiple Output. Telecommunication Tower (Base stations) has an antenna to transmit and receive data both. Having more antennas mean more download speed capacity for a user. Similarly, the antenna number on the device side is also equally important.
It is now common that a device has 2×2 antennas for two data streams concurrently. A 4×4 MIMO device doubles it to 4 antennas which brings multifold download and upload speeds. But again, for mobile users to get the benefit from MIMO technology, both their smartphone and the tower (Base station) from which they are getting the signal must meet similar qualifications.
A base station now mostly comes with 2 antennas by default. If the number of antennas is increased to 4, it can support multiple data streams, and the speed increases by nearly double. But for this to happen, the smartphone must also have 4 antennas to support the transmission.
4×4 MIMO antennas are available on most flagship smartphones or tablets. The mid-rangers though are still some years away to make the cut.
Frequency Bandwidth (Base station Dependent)
The speed of 4G LTE is also dependent on bandwidth used in the cell towers (Base stations), mostly the same for a particular operator. As we mentioned earlier, the frequency bandwidth can vary from 1.4 MHz, 3 MHz, 5 MHz, 10 MHz, 15 MHz, or 20 MHz. Providers often opt for multiple of 5 MHz up to 20 MHz frequency for each band.
Higher frequency equates to higher transmission capacity. If an operator uses the 20 MHz spectrum for their bands, the users could get a better download and upload speed. Similarly, the frequency of operation has also an impact on the coverage area. An 1800 MHz gives you a better data rate capacity due to the availability of a 20 MHz spectrum but has less coverage if you compare it to lower bands such as 800/900 MHz. Meanwhile, the lower spectrum bands like the 800 MHz/900 MHz band have much better coverage but less bandwidth (10 MHz) and yield lower speed.
|Operators||Frequency Bands and Bandwidth||Carrier Aggregation|
|NTC||1800 MHz (15 MHz), 800 MHz (10 MHz)||Yes|
|Ncell||1800 MHz (20 MHz), 900 MHz (5 MHz)||No|
|Smart Cell||1800 MHz (10 MHz)||No|
Among the operators, NTC is currently using a 15 MHz spectrum for its 4G LTE in the 1800 MHz band whereas it has a 10 MHz spectrum in 800 MHz. Utilizing 20 MHz would increase its overall data rate efficiency. Similarly, Ncell uses a 20 MHz spectrum in the 1800 MHz band and around 5 MHz bandwidth in the 900 MHz bands. Smart Cell runs its 4G in 1800 MHz using a chunk of 10 MHz spectrum which translates to a normal speed but with better coverage.
Check out: Frequency bands in Nepal for 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G
Time of Usage Influences 4G Speed (No. of users on one base station)
Aside from the hardware factors, the time you use 4G is another crucial factor that affects your 4G broadband experience. A cell tower’s frequency is static. A 4G base station’s peak performance is over 200 Mbps throughput easily but real-time performance falls short due to variables, the time of usage being a crucial one.
We can find a tremendous divergence in 4G performance in the daytime and at night. That is because there are more users in the busy time (mostly 7 pm to 10 pm). Base stations have to cover thousands of devices seeking connection simultaneously. As a result, the performance is always average which is not bad but compared to late nighttime, it can fall short. Meanwhile, at non-busy times, we can expect a much better performance from the base stations as there is a lesser number of users.
To be more specific, in a busy time with thousands of devices connected simultaneously, a user can get 20 Mbps or less in Nepal. At late night, the same tower can deliver anywhere from 50 to 200 Mbps or above in a Carrier Aggregated scenario. A user also gets a greater upload bit rate during this time.
There could be a scenario where the available resources in the 4G tower are used up in a congestion state where new data requests could not be catered to as per demand. In such a case, the speed deteriorates with a poor experience. To mitigate such problems, telcos either need to add more resources to the existing base station or even add another base station.
Signal Quality (Distance from Cell Tower)
Besides, the distance from the closest cell tower is another factor that is affecting the 4G speed in Nepal. The farther a user is from the tower the weaker the signal strength and data performance.
Not only the distance, physical barriers, weather, environment, and vegetation can also degrade the signal strength.
Although 4G has gone nationwide, operators need to roll out more cell towers for better coverage everywhere and smoother 4G performance. Operators are still expanding their coverage to the remaining local levels and we hope the projects are completed soon.
Signal quality is determined by signal strength and interference from a particular base station. Better signal and lower interference, always result in higher data speeds in 4G. So, data speed with a 4G signal of -80 dBm could be better than a 4G signal of -100 dBm.
How Much 4G Speed Can You Expect in Nepal?
With all the factors discussed above, we now come to the chase. How much 4G speed do you get in Nepal? In general, users of 4G get almost similar speeds on all telecom operators with a few variations due to the spectrum and the technologies they implement.
Nepal Telecom, shortly NTC has implemented Carrier Aggregation at many sites in urban areas for better speed. This increases the speed multifold compared to a normal situation. That is why in its ideal conditions which are mostly at night time with fewer users, you can expect above 200 Mbps of download speed. In the daytime with the crowded network, you can get a regular speed.
Check out: What is 4G+? Everything you need to know
Usually, users of NTC 4G can get around 20 – 50 Mbps of average download upload speed.
Private operator Ncell also provides a good combination of speed and coverage but it is not ‘aggregated’. That means users can’t expect a remarkable speed bump over their usual speeds. Ncell users get anywhere around 20 – 30 Mbps on a regular day and around 80 Mbps above peak speed in ideal conditions. Smart Cell uses a single band 1800 MHz (10 MHz) for its 4G broadband and its performance is somewhat similar to Ncell. But due to the lesser no of base stations, users may notice more fluctuations in browsing the internet.
4G inspiring digital inclusivity
The 4G cellular standard has contributed to the digital shift in recent years, especially in post-COVID-19 months. From digital banking/payments to online shopping to streaming and downloads all, have become more fun and engaging with the revolutionary mobile network. Now, with far more users connected since its launch 5 years ago, the fourth-generation mobile network has helped Nepal achieve more digital inclusivity. But challenges remain ahead. The 4G broadband hasn’t covered rural areas of Nepal yet and the digital divide still exists. With 5G right on the horizon, operators need to ensure more internet inclusivity in the country to realize Digital Nepal Framework and its ethos.
As per the latest data, the number of 4G is approaching 1 crore 40 lakhs shared among the 3 telecom operators.
The 5G launch is imminent and advanced 4G hardware implementation will also be useful for Non-standalone 5G rollout ahead.
4G is currently the best cellular network with a 5G birth imminent. The cellular standard has transformed Nepal’s internet sphere with its incredible speed over its predecessor 3G. Do check 4G vs 3G.
What is the average 4G speed you get on your smartphone? Is it consistent, or fluctuating? Do share your experience with it in the comments below.
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