As U.S. carriers continue to hit new milestones in their 5G network rollouts, Opensignal has now conducted the most comprehensive analysis of smartphone users’ 5G mobile experience across the U.S. We included all 50 states and as many as 250 cities in this new study. While 5G was present to some extent everywhere, the quality of 5G experience varied significantly. Our 5G users on the East Coast generally had a better 5G experience, followed by users on the West Coast and in the Great Lakes region.
Our 5G users in New Jersey enjoyed some of the best 5G experiences as the state featured in the top five across three out of the four metrics we analyzed: 5G Availability, 5G Download Speed, and 5G Games Experience. The state of New York had the fastest 5G Download Speed and best 5G Games Experience, and was in the top third of the table for 5G Availability and 5G Video Experience.
California was one of the best states for 5G Availability as it scored 24.7%, but its results were lower on other 5G measures compared with other states. Our 5G users in Illinois and Texas experienced the best 5G Availability we measured across the 50 states. However, while Illinois also placed relatively highly in the remaining categories, Texas scored middle of the table in 5G Download Speed, placed in the lower third in 5G Video Experience, while scoring one of the lowest 5G Games Experience scores.
We also observed some notable exceptions. Despite Vermont ranking at the bottom of the table for both 5G Availability and 5G Download Speed, our 5G users in the Green Mountain State experienced the best 5G Video Experience, a feat they shared with 5G users from Nebraska and South Dakota. On the other hand, while Hawaii was among the top states for 5G Availability and 5G Download Speed, it achieved one of the lowest scores in 5G Video Experience and 5G Games Experience, likely because Hawaiian users often access web content from a content delivery network (CDN) which is physically placed in a much farther location compared to the average distance for U.S. continental users.
5G users in Illinois and Texas spent the highest amount of time connected to 5G
While the U.S. generally places among the top countries for 5G Availability in our international comparisons, the time our users spent with an active 5G connection across the 50 states varied greatly.
Our 5G users in Illinois and Texas experienced the joint highest 5G Availability of 27.6% and 27%, respectively. Nevada, Hawaii, New Jersey and Rhode Island also passed the 25% mark — or one quarter of time — while our 5G users in an additional 21 U.S. states spent more than 20% of their time with an active 5G connection.
However, as we move towards the bottom of the table, we see 5G Availability decrease sharply. South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Maine tied in 45th place with their scores ranging between 11.2% and 12.4%, while New Hampshire followed in second-last place with a 10% 5G Availability. We observed the lowest score in Vermont, where our 5G users spent just 5.7% of their time with an active 5G connection, which was one fifth of the 5G Availability our users experienced in Texas and Illinois.
Opensignal’s 5G Availability metric represents the proportion of time users with a 5G device and subscription had an active 5G connection. 5G Availability does not rely on external sources like census data that are updated infrequently, nor does it use mathematical estimations of network propagation. Rather, 5G Availability measures the real experience of the network as seen by smartphone users, wherever they go, indoors and outdoors, at all hours of the day, thus representing the actual users’ experience.
By comparing 5G Availability with demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we found that our users on average spent a higher proportion of time with an active 5G connection in states having a higher percentage of urban population.
Our data therefore suggests that mobile operators have been focusing on deploying their 5G networks in highly-populated states where the vast majority of the population lives in urban areas. This means people in less populated states, or those with a significant rural population like Maine and West Virginia, will likely have to wait further before seeing 5G bridge the urban-rural mobile experience divide. At least unless there are initiatives by federal agencies, or states, to change 5G’s current deployment trajectory.
New York state featured the fastest 5G Download Speed of 114 Mbps
Our 5G users in the state of New York were the only ones to experience average downloads speeds above 100 Mbps when they connected to 5G networks, although Maryland and New Jersey came very close to achieve the three-digit mark with their respective 5G Download Speed of 99.8 Mbps and 98.3 Mbps.
We observed the average 5G Download Speed above 70 Mbps in 26 states — over half — with an additional 12 states passing the 60 Mbps mark, and eight states ranging between 50 Mbps and 60 Mbps. Only Vermont, Maine, Mississippi and West Virginia scored below 50 Mbps in 5G Download Speed, with Vermont ranking last as our users in the Green Mountain State on average experienced 42.2 Mbps in Download Speed Experience.
5G users in all states except for Alaska experience a Good 5G Video Experience
5G Video Experience across the U.S. was relatively similar as we observed Good (55-65 points) scores in 49 out of 50 states. Alaska was the only state where our users on average had a Fair (40-55 points) 5G Video Experience as it scored 51.9 points on a 100-point scale.
Our 5G users experienced the best 5G Video Experience in Nebraska, Vermont and South Dakota which scored 61.9, 61.8 and 60.2 points, respectively. Most of the other states scored between 57 points and 59 points, while 17 states including Texas and Florida scored between 55 and 57 points.
Opensignal’s data shows once again that measuring network speeds alone is not enough to understand the full spectrum of users’ mobile experience. In this analysis, all three states that tied for best 5G Video Experience placed in the lower third for 5G Speed Experience, with the state of Vermont actually coming last. In fact, download speed is just one of multiple factors determining Video Experience. Latency plays an important role in ensuring quick load times, and a consistent throughput can help avoid buffering during video streaming. Peering links with content providers, intelligent caching systems, and other network optimization practices — for example, restricting video resolution or throttling a specific Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as YouTube — can also have an impact on smartphone users’ Video Experience.
Besides, smartphone users in the U.S. that adopt a 5G phone do not automatically see a better video streaming experience using 5G, because it depends in part on the 5G plan they choose. For example, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile restrict video streaming quality to standard definition (SD) resolution in their entry-level unlimited data plans, although the plans all have 5G access included. Therefore, some 5G smartphone users on the three carriers could have their 5G Video Experience impaired by a restriction on video streaming quality tied to their 5G plan, regardless of their 5G Download Speed.
All states with a Good Games Experience are on the East Coast, except for Nebraska
Our 5G users experienced a Good (75-85 points) 5G Games Experience in 11 states. 10 of these states stem from the East Coast, with Nebraska being the one exception, as our 5G users in that state on average saw 75.3 points in 5G Games Experience.
Our 5G users had the best 5G Games Experience in New York and New Jersey which scored 79.6 points and 78.7 points, respectively. North Carolina, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and Massachusetts were the other states from the East Coast to score above 75 points and achieve a Good rating.
We observed Fair (65-75 points) 5G Games Experience scores in 31 states, while eight states including Florida and Texas scored below 65, achieving a Poor (40-65) 5G Games Experience score. Mississippi and Alaska were the two states closing our 5G Games Experience table having scored 62 points and 62.8 points, respectively.
5G mobile experience across 250 U.S. cities
We have analyzed the 5G mobile network experience across 250 U.S. cities. Similarly to what we observed at the state level, our users’ 5G mobile experience varied greatly depending on the city they were in.
The amount of time our users spent with an active 5G connection ranged from 10.8% in Utica, New York, to 34.1% in McAllen, Texas. Out of the 11 cities where our users had a 5G Availability of 30% or higher, six cities were from Texas — including Houston and San Antonio — while the remaining five cities were Chicago, Miami, Fresno, Los Angeles and Lafayette. A total of 67 cities featured a 5G Availability above 25%, with an additional 89 cities passing the 20% mark. At the bottom of the list we found 22 cities scoring below 15% in 5G Availability, including four cities from the state of New York — Utica, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany — despite the average 5G Availability in that state reaching 21.8%.
We observed 5G Download Speed range from 34.3 Mbps in Hagerstown, Maryland, up to well above 100 Mbps in Laredo, Texas, where our users on average experienced 130.7 Mbps in 5G Download speed. The average 5G download speed passed the 100 Mbps mark in twelve cities, including New York, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Kansas City. In an additional 43 cities our users on average experienced more than 80 Mbps in download speed when connected to 5G networks including Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. However, the vast majority of the cities — 154 cities of 250 cities — featured a 5G Download Speed of between 50 Mbps and 80 Mbps, while in 41 cities the average experience was below 50 Mbps, ten cities of which were from California.
Opensignal Limited retains ownership of this insight including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports and insights produced by Opensignal Limited may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent. Journalists are encouraged to quote information included in Opensignal reports and insights provided they include clear source attribution. For more information, contact [email protected].