5G boosts the maximum real-world download speed by up to 2.7 times 4G users’ top speeds

In Opensignal’s latest analysis of 5G, we've looked at the maximum real-world speeds seen in eight countries which have launched 5G services. The maximum download speeds smartphone users see are much faster than the average speeds experienced by 5G users as we expected. 

The highest maximum speeds were seen by 5G users in the USA with 1815 Mbps, which is approximately three times as fast as 4G users’ maximum speed. Switzerland followed in second place with 1145 Mbps and South Korea ranked third with 5G users’ maximum speed of 1071 Mbps. The speeds we measured in these three leading countries were significantly faster than the maximum speed in European markets where 5G has only just launched such as Italy or Spain, or in the UK where the first operator to launch 5G only has 40 MHz of suitable spectrum which is far below 5G technology’s 100 MHz channel size sweet spot.

It’s unsurprising to see that the current 5G maximum speed is so much greater in the US, because operators there are already able to use mmWave spectrum for 5G. This is extremely high capacity and extremely fast spectrum but has very limited coverage compared with the 3.4-3.8 GHz 5G “mid band” spectrum typically used in most of the other countries we analyzed where mmWave spectrum is not yet available.

Real-world measurements of 5G maximum speed accurately record the experience

At Opensignal we focus on analyzing the true end-to-end network experience of mobile users. Our approach means the speeds we measure represent the typical real-world experience of smartphone users. This means other speed tests which use dedicated test servers that are often located very close to a user inside the same operator’s network will inflate speeds compared with Opensignal’s real-world measurement of maximum speed. 

To measure the real-world experience accurately, Opensignal’s tests connect our users’ smartphones to the same servers that host all the popular mobile apps and websites which all smartphone users connect to daily.

The 5G experience is set to improve quickly

At this early stage of the 5G era, the maximum speeds are already many times higher than the maximum speed we have measured with our 4G users. The difference between 5G users’ max speed and 4G users ranged from 2.7 times as fast in the USA, 2.6 times as fast in Switzerland, down to Australia where the maximum speed experienced by 4G users was so extremely fast – close to the theoretical best performance of 4G – that the maximum 5G speed was actually slightly slower than the maximum 4G speed. 

Opensignal expects 5G maximum speeds to continue to increase as 5G expands its reach. This is just the start of the 5G era and the market is moving quickly. More 5G services will launch using more spectrum and wider channels — there are few 5G services currently using 5G’s ideal 100 MHz channel size  — and 5G technology evolves to be able to combine the performance of multiple 5G channels and bands together to boost both the maximum and average 5G speeds and further improve the mobile user experience of 5G users.