“Unicom opened a 5G package for 239 yuan a month without my knowledge.”
Recently, the discussion of “speeding down 4G to promote 5G” has once again become the focus of public opinion. In addition to network speed issues, consumers also said they have encountered problems such as being “threatened” to apply for 5G packages, “5G packages are opened without their knowledge”, and it is difficult to return to 4G packages after upgrading 5G packages.
In fact, since last year, related controversies have appeared, and complaints on social platforms are not uncommon. For example, in Zhihu’s question “In order to push 5G, 4G speed reduction, is it true?” The answer is as high as 150, with 344,000 page views. Most of the answers are based on their own personal experience and complaints against 4G networks. Speed becomes slower.
Is the 4G network speed really slowing down in general? Recently, Sohu Technology selected four locations: Peking University, National Library, Olympic Forest Park and Zhongguancun Bank Network Center to conduct actual measurements of the 4G network speeds of the three major operators. After comparing this speed measurement data with the data around 2014, Sohu Technology found that 4G network speeds have slowed down in certain areas and a certain period of time, but there is no overall decline in 4G network speeds.
Some people think that in order to promote 5G packages, operators will restrict 4G speeds to users who refuse to upgrade 5G packages. However, many experts believe that this is almost inoperable from a technical point of view: “The allotment of user traffic by operators is a batch process. It is impossible to perform 4G on a user who has just refused to upgrade to a 5G package. Speed limit. Each operator serves hundreds of millions of users and has strict user management.
The actual 4G network speed measurement of the three major operators: the network speed in some areas has slowed down
“It has not received a notice from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on reducing or limiting the user’s 4G network speed, nor has it reduced the user’s 4G speed.” Previously, the three major operators also responded that they did not reduce the 4G network speed.
However, users have been constantly reporting related issues on various network platforms, “Is the 4G network speed slow?” It seems to be a Rashomon incident.
Recently, Sohu Technology selected four locations, Peking University, National Library, Olympic Forest Park, and Zhongguancun Bank Net Center, to measure the 4G network speeds of the three major operators.
During the test at each location, Sohu Technology tested the 4G network of each operator 6 times on average. After removing the numbers with obvious differences, the remaining numbers were taken as the median. The total number of samples was 144 test results. .
(Drawing: Sohu Technology)
It can be seen from the test results that the 4G speed difference of the same operator in different locations is more obvious. For example, the 4G download speed of Telecom in the National Library is 79.2 Mbps, while the 4G download speed of Telecom in the Zhongguancun Bank Network Center is only 6.85Mbps. This is far lower than the average download rate of 4G mobile bandwidth across the country. The “China Broadband Speed Status Report” in the third quarter of 2019 shows that the average download rate of my country’s mobile broadband users using 4G networks to access the Internet reached 24.02Mbps.
Moreover, even in the same place and at the same time period, the difference in 4G network speeds of different operators is very obvious. For example, at the Zhongguancun Bank Network Center, China Mobile’s 4G download rate is 42.49Mbps, Telecom’s 4G download rate is 6.85Mbps, and China Unicom’s 4G download rate is 5.35Mbps.
Regarding the difference in the horizontal comparison in the speed measurement process, many experts said that it may be affected by various factors such as the deployment of the base station, the number of speed measurement people, the speed measurement software version, and the model. “There may be various factors in the entire speed measurement link. For example, if you only test the number of people at the same time, the test server is idle, and the speed test will be faster invisibly.” Communications analyst Fu Liang told Sohu Technology.
Compared with the data around 2014, it is found that the 4G network speed has not decreased overall, but the network speed in some areas has slowed down. For example, in the Olympic Forest Park, the 4G download rate of Telecom in 2014 was 47Mbps, and in 2020 it was 31.8Mbps. .
Of course, there are also some places where the download rate will be faster in 2020. For example, in the Zhongguancun Bank Network Center, the mobile 4G download rate in 2013 was 33.05Mbps, and in 2020 it was 42.49Mbps.
(Drawing: Sohu Technology, Source: Zhongguancun Online and other media)
According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in 2019, the average download rate of mobile broadband has increased by about 6 times compared with 5 years ago. Regarding the phenomenon that the overall speed test results are not much different from 6 years ago, Fu Liang told Sohu Technology that after the initial coverage is completed, the subsequent optimization of the operator is mainly for some areas with poor coverage, so it is completed at the beginning In areas covered, the speed increase will not be obvious.
Judging from the results of this on-site speed measurement, 4G network speeds have slowed down in some areas and a certain period of time, but the overall 4G network speed has not dropped. This should also prove the previous response of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology: “The average download rate of 4G across the country has continued to increase in recent years, and overall there has been no significant decline in the rate.”
At the same time, the speed measurement of some users at a certain location shows that the 4G network speed has dropped, and it is difficult to explain the overall 4G network speed drop. Communication expert Zhang Chi told Sohu Technology: “The representative meaning of a single speed measurement is not very significant. Even if all influencing factors are strictly controlled, it can only show that it is a problem with a certain base station, and it does not mean that 5.4 million base stations have problems.”
High-speed growth in traffic demand makes 4G networks “overwhelmed”
And so many complaints and feedbacks also show that the slowdown of 4G network speed in certain areas and a certain period of time has caused confusion for many users, but this is not because operators actively slow down 4G networks, but mainly It is because the growth of 4G user traffic and network support capabilities are not yet fully matched.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of the end of August, the number of 4G users was 1.29 billion, an increase of 2.6% year-on-year, accounting for 80.7% of the total number of mobile phone users.
The proportion of 4G users has reached about 80%, and it is still growing. At the same time, the average monthly user traffic still maintains a rapid growth, especially the monthly average monthly usage traffic of 4G users. In the first half of 2019, the 4G user DOU (average monthly Internet traffic per household) of China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom was 7.1GB7GB7.3GB respectively. At the end of 2017, the 4G user DOU of China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom was only 1.8GB 4.5GB2GB.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the average mobile Internet access traffic per household reached 11.25GB per household in August, a year-on-year increase of 30.3%. From January to August, the cumulative mobile Internet traffic reached 103.9 billion GB, a year-on-year increase of 33.7%. From the monthly DOU growth in 2014-2019, we can also see the trend of skyrocketing user traffic demand.
The skyrocketing demand for traffic to a certain extent also reflects the changes in users’ surfing habits. On the one hand, popular network applications in the past two years consume too much traffic, such as short videos, live broadcasts, ultra-high-definition movies, and so on. On the other hand, Zhang Chi told Sohu Technology: “4G network is a limited resource and should be calculated. Affected by 4G speed and fee reduction, everyone is reluctant to use WiFi and will use 4G traffic to download big movies, which will cause Waste of traffic, unreasonable use of bandwidth.”
However, due to the immature 5G construction, the coverage is not comprehensive. For example, there are currently very few 5G signal coverage in transportation and office buildings. “Many 5G package users also use 4G networks where there is no 5G signal, and the average traffic of 5G users is more than half that of 4G, which will also put a lot of pressure on 4G networks.” Fu Liang told Sohu Technology .
As a result, 4G networks are “overwhelmed” by the rapid growth in traffic demand, but 4G networks have no matching capital investment support. Fu Liang said, “For operators, last year 4G was the main investment entity, and this year’s 4G investment was very conservative, and they should transfer money to 5G as much as possible.”
(Drawing: Sohu Technology, Source: Operator Financial Report)
According to the plan, the 5G capital expenditure of the three major operators will be greatly increased, and the investment proportion will increase from about 14% in 2019 to more than 50% in 2020. It should be noted that the total planned capital expenditure of operators has not increased significantly, so a substantial increase in 5G investment means a decrease in 4G investment.
The decrease in the proportion of 4G base stations is a manifestation. According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, my country had 4.45 million 4G base stations in June 2019, accounting for 60.8%; at the end of 2019, the total number of 4G base stations in my country reached 5.44 million, accounting for 64.7%; June 2020 At the end of the month, the total number of 4G base stations was 5.6 million, accounting for 63.9%.
In addition, some insiders said that in order to reduce costs and mobilize funds for 5G construction, operators will abolish some 4G base stations, which will cause intermittent 4G signals.
Why not continue the large-scale construction of 4G? Fu Liang believes, “Operators are also very helpless, because after a few months after the 5G network is ready, users will gradually transfer traffic to 5G. If you still maintain large-scale investment in 4G networks, it will be a waste after users leave. .”
Promoting 5G packages is not profitable, and 4G network speeds will become faster in the future
At the end of 2019, Li Zhengmao, general manager of China Telecom, said in public that 5G development faces three major problems: 5G has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than 4G, so 5G must reach the signal coverage of 4G, and the number of 5G base stations must reach 4G. 3 times; because of the higher frequency, the power consumption of 5G base stations will be 3 times that of 4G base stations; the construction cost of 5G base stations is also 3 times that of 4G.
The cost of 5G remains high, and some people think that in order to promote 5G packages, operators will restrict users who refuse to upgrade to 5G packages. However, many experts believe that this is almost impractical from a technical point of view: “The allotment of user traffic by operators is a batch process. It is impossible to perform 4G on a user who has just refused to upgrade to a 5G package. Speed limit. Each operator serves hundreds of millions of users and has very strict user management.”
“Internet fees have no potential to be tapped. In the future, the proportion of Internet users’ Internet fees will become less and less. The network may become a welfare nature. If operators want to recoup their costs, they mainly rely on the development of the industrial Internet and customize 5G services for enterprises. Earn business money.”
Zhang Chi told Sohu Technology that for operators, compared to the huge investment in 5G, the package tariffs only make up a small part of it. “Nowadays, most people who buy 5G packages originally bought 4G high-traffic packages, which is equivalent to taking them in the left pocket. The money that came out was put in the right pocket.”
As for the statement that “the speed of the 5G network will be slower if the 5G package is not increased, and the package will be more expensive in the future,” Fu Liang said: “This may be a kind of art that scares you to use 5G, because if you successfully convince users to upgrade the 5G package, the customer service You can get money, but most people who do telemarketing are not operators.”
In addition, some users have measured 4G network speeds that are very high, but the actual download speeds are very low. This may be due to speed restrictions imposed by some content providers. “For financial considerations, many software, game and video providers Only a limited number of physical servers or cloud servers are purchased. In order to save electricity bills and other expenses, the download speed is strictly limited, and only single-threaded downloads are supported.”
At present, network construction is in a transitional stage. 5G network construction is not yet mature, and user traffic demand is still maintaining rapid growth. 4G and some 5G traffic demand are “squeezed” on 4G networks, so certain regions and certain areas have appeared. For a period of time, the speed of 4G network slowed down, which intensified the contradiction between users and operators.
However, with the acceleration of the 5G construction process, the wider coverage of the 5G network and the further popularization of 5G terminals, as more and more 4G users gradually migrate to the 5G network, as the utilization rate of the 4G network decreases, the 4G network speed also increases. Naturally, the user’s network experience will be improved.