WhatsApp call quality: ADSL vs 3G in South Africa

When WhatsApp officially launched voice calling at the end of March 2015, call quality on the service was acceptable, but not without its problems.

During the first few seconds of a call there was significant lag between speaking on one end and hearing what was said on the other.

There was also a noticeable difference in quality between calls on devices connected via mobile broadband and those on Wi-Fi backed by fixed-broadband connections.

Six months after first becoming available on Android, and following WhatsApp’s launch on iPhone, we wanted to see if the service had improved.

We conducted tests using an LG G4 and Nexus 5, using a variety of broadband connections.

In the sound clips below, we test how WhatsApp calling performs over fixed and cellular broadband.

Wi-Fi backed by fixed broadband

For the first test we connected the LG G4 to an ADSL network (10Mbps Telkom Internet), and the Nexus 5 to a regional fixed-wireless ISP (WISP) in Centurion (Level–7).

The WISP connection is limited to 6Mbps download and 3Mbps upload.

As the recording above demonstrates, there is still some glitching in the first 15–20 seconds of a call. However, we did not notice any latency. The male voice was coming from the LG G4 and the female voice from the Nexus 5.

The remainder of the call was clear on both sides, suggesting that WhatsApp is still doing some automatic adjustments at the start.

MTN LTE to Telkom 3G

The second test was conducted over the mobile broadband connections available via the SIMs installed into the two smartphones: MTN LTE for the LG G4 and Telkom 3G on the Nexus 5.

Slightly higher latency was evident in this test, and the quality of the female voice coming through the LG G4 changed dramatically about a minute into the call.

There were also moments when you could not hear what the other party was saying.

MTN LTE to fixed wireless (WISP)

For the final test, the LG G4 was left on its MTN LTE mobile connection while the Nexus 5 was connected via Wi-Fi to the WISP.

Much lower latency was evident on the call, though the quality of the voice coming through the LG G4 was still relatively poor initially.

At around 45 seconds into the call, the volume and clarity of the female voice coming from the Nexus 5 increased noticeably.

However, when the female voice resumes at around 1m17s into the call, the quality was poor once again until a few seconds before the call ended.

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WhatsApp call quality: ADSL vs 3G in South Africa