5G gives the Australian mobile experience a big boost, including 5.3 times faster speeds

At Opensignal, we analyze the real-world mobile experience of our smartphone users. Here we’ve examined the differences between the mobile experience of our Australian users when they are on 3G, 4G or 5G connections in terms of their average download and upload speeds, their experience when streaming video and the quality of their mobile gaming experience. 

We’ve previously seen when benchmarking the 5G experience internationally, that Australia placed in the top 10 for many of our measures of 5G mobile experience. Also, the Australian experience ranked highly for the uplift that users connected to 5G saw in their experience compared to those with 4G connections.

It’s important to remember that 5G today is still in its infancy — the 5G experience is set to improve greatly in the years ahead. So, we are comparing the early state of 5G to that of older 3G and 4G technologies that are the height of their powers.

Starting with average download speeds, our users racked up an impressive 240.9 Mbps when connected to 5G — 195.5 Mbps or 5.3 times faster than the 45.3 Mbps observed when connected to 4G. The speed gap between 3G and 4G was smaller at 39.3 Mbps, but proportionally larger with the average download speeds seen when connected to 4G being 7.5 times faster than the 3G Download Speed score of 6 Mbps. 

Our users saw average upload speeds of 15.5 Mbps when connected to 5G — 88.6% faster than the 8.2 Mbps seen when connected to 4G. However, average 3G upload speeds were 6.1 times slower than those seen when connected to 4G. This indicates that currently, the 4G/5G uplift on average upload speeds is much less in percentage terms than the difference seen when moving from 3G to 4G. 

Looking at the experience of our smartphone users when streaming video over mobile connections, we found that our users enjoyed an Excellent (75 or above) video experience when connected to either 4G or 5G. In contrast, they had a Fair (40-55) 3G Video Experience. 

An Excellent rating means that there was a very consistent experience across all users, video streaming providers and resolutions tested, with fast loading times and almost non-existent stalling. On the other hand, placing in the Fair category means that there was not a good experience either for higher resolution videos (very slow loading times and prolonged stalling) or for some video streaming providers. However, experience on lower resolution videos from some providers might have been sufficient.

Our users had an Excellent (75 or above) experience when streaming video on either a 4G or 5G connection. However, the 4G Video Experience was only 0.4 points within the lower boundary for this category, while the 5G Video Experience was 6.5 points above the 75 point threshold. While the 5G Video Experience was 6.1 points (8.1%) higher than the 4G Video Experience, the video experience observed by our users when connected to 4G was 21.6 points (40.2%) higher than that seen when they were on 3G connections.

An increasingly important aspect of the mobile experience is that observed when playing multiplayer games — in part due to the growing popularity of eSports and marketing efforts by mobile operators to attract mobile gamers as customers on the back of their investments in 5G networks. Opensignal’s Games Experience measures how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator’s network. Measured on a scale of 0-100, the metric analyzes how the multiplayer mobile Games Experience is affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter to determine the impact on multiplayer gameplay.

Our Australian users narrowly missed out on an Excellent (85 or above) games experience when connected to 5G, as the 5G Games Experience score was only 0.5 points shy of the mark. Also, the 5G score was 7.9 points (10.2%) higher than the score for 4G Games Experience of 76.7. Both the scores for 4G and 5G Games Experience placed in the Good category (75-85), but the 3G Games Experience placed in the Very Poor (under 40) category. 

A Good Games Experience indicates that most users under these mobile network conditions deemed the experience acceptable. The gameplay experience was generally controllable and the user received immediate feedback between their actions and the outcomes in the game. In contrast, a Very Poor rating means that nearly all users found this level of experience unacceptable. In addition, almost all users experienced noticeable delays within the game when connected to 3G networks, with most of them not feeling like they had control of the gameplay. 

The 5G experience will evolve and improve
We’ve seen that 5G already delivers significant improvements to our Australian users’ mobile experience when compared to that seen when they only connect to 4G services. However, when we compare these enhancements against those seen when moving from 3G to 4G, the improvement is not as large in percentage terms. But 5G is not yet a mature technology, unlike 4G, so the gap will likely widen between 4G and 5G in future. For example, the introduction of 5G standalone access technology and associated technologies such as mobile edge computing will likely improve latency and the Games Experience perceived by our users. Also, operators plan to introduce mmWave 5G later this year, which will enable extremely high download speeds and high capacity but will likely have more limited reach, based on the experience we have seen in the U.S. where all three operators have already deployed mmWave. 

In our analysis we are comparing 3G with 4G as the two technologies are today. Back when 4G was first launched, the mobile experience ‘gap’ between 3G and 4G would have been rather different. Finally, once the majority of smartphone users are spending the majority of their time connected to 5G services, consumer app developers will develop their products to take full advantage of 5G’s capabilities. Once that starts happening, the 4G/5G experience will become increasingly differentiated because some apps and services will require 5G.