Ekspresa Blog Articles

LTE coverage in Mexico City’s road corridors

Continuing with our  LTE coverage  measurement posts, this week is for Mexico City. In this article we present a comparison of the measurements for the operators Altan, AT&T, Telcel and Telefonica in some emblematic highway corridors of Mexico City.

Measurements were collected using Celplan’s CellWireless multi-technology scanner solution.

We want to highlight that the analysis that we will present in this article is based exclusively on signal levels (RSRP and CINR) measured on LTE cells. This information, although very valuable, does not provide a complete picture of the quality of the user experience on a mobile network.

To perform a complete benchmarking of the quality of service of mobile operators, additional measurements are required using mobile terminals (typically smartphones) performing an extensive test protocol for voice and data services. Even though Ekspresa has extensive experience in this type of project, for this publication we limit ourselves only to measurements collected with the scanner.

In the next section we present the methodology followed in the study. This includes test conditions, dates of the collections, and equipment characteristics. Later, we will show an interactive map with the results by operator and channel, as well as a brief analysis of the results.

LTE coverage evaluation methodology

We briefly describe the methodology used for this study.

General considerations

CellWireless Spectrum Analyzer and Scanner Solution
CellDigitizer Scanner


The equipment was configured to collect measurements at the following frequencies:

OperadorBanda# Canal (EARFCN)
AT&T2.6 GHz3150
AT&T2.6 GHz37900
AT&T2.6 GHz38098
AT&T850 MHz2466
AT&T2100 MHz (AWS)2250
AT&T850 MHz2475
Altan700 MHz9310
Altan700 MHz9435
Altan700 MHz9560
Telefonica1900 MHz900
Telefonica2.6 GHz3350
Telcel2100 MHz (AWS)2050
Telcel850 MHz2585
Telcel2.6 GHz2825
Telcel2.6 GHz2975
Telcel2100 MHz (AWS)67036
Table 1. Frequencies per operator

LTE coverage levels definition

In cellular networks, there are indicators that are used to indicate the level of signal intensity (received power) and signal quality (signal-to-noise ratio) with which the mobile decodes the cell transmissions.

In LTE, we usually use RSRP (Reference Signal Received Power) to measure signal strength, and RSRQ (Reference Signal Received Quality) and CINR (Carrier to Interference and Noise Ratio) to measure signal to noise ratio. Describing the meaning of these metrics is beyond the scope of this article, however we refer the reader to this link if they want to further explore these definitions.

In the next analysis we will use the RSRP and the CINR for the evaluation of LTE coverage. In addition to presenting individual RSRP and CINR values, we define three coverage “levels” that take both metrics into consideration.

In the Radio Frequency field analysis, the term “coverage” is usually used to indicate only the level of signal intensity (RSRP), however in this article we will use this word to refer to the combined indicator.

To calculate the level of coverage in each area point, the RSRP and CINR samples collected with the scanner in the hexagonal area (2149m²) are averaged. After this, in each hexagon the RSRP and CINR of all the frequencies in Table 1 are evaluated, and the best level of coverage is selected from among all the channels found for each operator. For example, if in a given area the X operator has -110dBm RSRP / -10 dB CINR for EARFCN # 1 (which corresponds to level 1), and has -85dBm RSRP / 25dB CINR (Level 3) for EARFCN # 2, then this area will be considered level 3.

Results: Who has better LTE coverage?

In Fig. 1. a map is shown with the comparison of the three operators for the indicator “Level of Coverage” described in the methodology. The map is interactive: you can select the metric to evaluate, change the frequency and/or zoom.

Fig. 1. Levels of LTE Coverage for the 4 operators. Mexico City

We can see that Altan and Telcel operators have a greater amount of level 3 samples. The numerical result can be seen in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. LTE Coverage level comparison for the four operators

Let’s examine the RSRP and CINR individually:

RSRP comparison

The following figure shows the RSRP statistics for the four operators, where AT&T, Altan and Telcel have more than 98% of the samples above -100 dBm, while Telefonica lags slightly behind with 93%.

Fig. 3. RSRP level comparison > -100 dBm

If we raise the threshold to -80dBm, we appreciate that AT&T takes advantage of the other operators.

Fig. 4. RSRP level comparison> -80 dBm

In the following image we can see the distribution of samples by carrier. It is appreciated that AT&T has two carriers with high sample density above -80dBm: 2250 (850 MHz) and 2475 (AWS).

Fig. 5. RSRP distribution by operator and channel

Having better RSRP levels favors indoor coverage conditions. In this area, AT&T has better levels within the route studied.

CINR comparison

Comparing the CINR, we appreciate that Altan operator has more samples above 10dB than its competitors.

Fig. 6. Comparison of % of samples with CINR > 10 dB

This graph is similar to the one in Fig. 2. This makes sense: since all operators have acceptable RSRP levels (> -100dBm) within the route under study, the “Coverage Level” indicator looks like modeled by CINR.

When we examine the data by carrier, we obtain the following density graph:

Fig. 7. CINR distribution by operator and channel

We can see that all Altan carriers have, on average, a significant sample density between 15 dB and 20 dB.

There are multiple reasons that can affect the level of interference in an LTE network. Among these we have:

The following chart shows the load percentage* measured by CellScanner for the 4 operators. Measurements from all bands are accumulated in a single histogram. We can see that Altan and Telcel have a higher proportion of samples below 50% load. This is consistent with the results in Fig. 6, where we see that these two operators have the best CINR levels.

Fig. 7 Histogram of load per operator

* CellScanner generates this indicator by measuring the average load in the subframes that carry the cell reference signal.


From our study we can conclude the following

We have prepared a PDF report with detailed maps by operator and channel. To access this information and the raw data (in plain text format) write to us at info@ekspresa.com or through our contact form to request access.

During the next weeks the Ekspresa team will continue to publish results of other measurements in the city. We invite you to follow us on Linkedin to be notified when the next studies are available.