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Analysis: UK lags in 5G speed test

August 27, 2020

Mobile analytics and wireless connectivity specialist Opensignal has analysed the real-world 5G experience of its users across mobile operators in a number of countries globally, including Australia, the US, UK and South Korea.

As part of those country reports, it developed a measure to understand the overall mobile experience of 5G users, Download Speed Experience – 5G Users,  which takes into account their average 5G and 4G download speeds as well as the time spent connected to each technology. For the first time, it is now comparing 5G users’ overall experience across 12 of the world’s leading 5G markets.

Globally, Opensignal’s 5G users in Saudi Arabia see the fastest overall average download speed with a Download Speed Experience of 144.5 Mbps ahead of Canada’s 5G users in second place with 90.4 Mbps. Strikingly, 5G Users in the country with the highest adoption of 5G to date, South Korea, rank just third. 5G users in the UK have the slowest overall Download Speed Experience with a score of 32.6 Mbps because the 4G experience greatly brings down the overall score.

Download Speed Experience – 5G Users takes into account the average 3G and 4G Download Speed that 5G users see, as well as their average 5G Download Speed and time connected to each type of network to reveal the overall download speed experience.

When Opensignal considers the average download speed using 5G technology, it sees a very different story. While Saudi Arabia remains in first place, South Korea jumps to second place with average 5G Download speeds of a staggering 312.7 Mbps — over five times faster than South Korea’s already fast 4G speeds. The UK moves up the rankings with the US, Netherlands and Germany now dropping into the last three positions.

According to Opensignal, the modest 5G Download Speeds in the US are as a result of a combination of the limited amount of new mid-band 5G spectrum that is available and the popularity of low-band spectrum – T-Mobile’s 600MHz and AT&T’s 850MHz – which offer excellent availability and reach but lower average speeds than the 3.5GHz mid-band spectrum used as the main 5G band in every country outside of the US.

However, Verizon’s mmWave-based 5G service offers very considerably faster average 5G Download Speeds of 494. 7 Mbps in Opensignal’s recent US report, which is faster than the average 5G download speeds Opensignal has seen on any operator, or in any country to date including Saudi Arabia.

The amount of time users spend connected to 5G – 5G Availability – is an important factor in the overall experience 5G users enjoy. “We are still in the early stages of a 5G era that will last for at least a decade because the first 5G services launched only in 2019, and in a number of countries we continue to see 5G services aimed at smartphone users launching for the first time,” advises Ian Fogg, VP Analysis, Opensignal.

Despite this immature 5G market, Opensignal’s data now show that its users in four countries enjoy an active 5G connection for more than one fifth of the time. The US is much higher ranked on 5G Availability than on average download speed because the low-band spectrum is ideally suited to enable great 5G reach and allow users to spend more time connected than in countries with higher frequency 5G spectrum.

In the US, the low-band 5G services of T-Mobile and AT&T have helped drive a high 5G Availability result. T-Mobile US’s very recent launch of standalone access 5G — where a phone no longer needs to connect to 4G in order for 5G to work — should help 5G services in future.

According to Opensignal, smaller geographies such as Kuwait or Hong Kong have an advantage over large countries such as Australia or the US in offering users high levels of 5G Availability which makes the achievements of operators in both Australia and the US — powering their 5G users’ experience ahead of the UK, and Switzerland — all the more impressive.


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