Benchmarking the Global 5G Experience — September 2021

With the autumn smartphone upgrade cycle about to start, with the recent launch of new Samsung foldable models such as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip3 and the new iPhone, as well as models from other brands, many mobile users will be considering purchasing their first 5G phone. Opensignal has again looked at the 5G experience to see how it compares globally and how 5G holds up against the older 4G mobile experience which will be used by most upgraders with 4G-only phones.

Since Opensignal’s previous global 5G benchmark, 5G Download Speeds have increased significantly. South Korea’s average 5G Download Speed has now tipped over 400Mbps, with users experiencing 406.5 Mbps, up from 361 Mbps in our April 2021 analysis. Twelve markets see average 5G Download Speed over 200 Mbps, up from eight markets previously. The highest 5G Peak Download Speed has increased to 963.2 Mbps (Taiwan) now and is only just under the one gigabit per second mark. 

As 5G launches and roll outs continue, a number of new markets feature in the 5G Global top rankings for 5G Download Speed, including Norway (346.9 Mbps), Sweden (273.5 Mbps), New Zealand (231.5 Mbps), Bulgaria (226.6 Mbps), Hungary (218.8 Mbps). Israel (192.6 Mbps) and Romania (181.7 Mbps). However, South Koreans continue to enjoy the fastest average 5G download speeds.

Again, every top ranking market enjoys an Excellent 5G Video Experience (75 or above), however the scores have slipped slightly. Now, six markets have scores over 80 on the 100-point scale, where last time all of the top 10 beat that mark, and the highest score has dropped from 84 to 81.4. The previous top ranked market, the Netherlands, has slipped down the table and now scores 80.2 down from 84.0 before, while Taiwan claims the top spot. 

5G Games Experience has a different trend. South Korea remains top for multiplayer mobile gaming with a score fractionally lower at 90.7 and again the Netherlands is second. But as Singapore’s operators focus on switching over to standalone 5G, the city state’s 5G Games Experience has already jumped with an increase from 84.1 to 86.8 propelling Singapore into a global third place spot. The top three all rated as Excellent (85 or above) while the remaining markets have to settle for a Good (75 < 85) 5G Games Experience.

All the global leaders rate as Good (80 < 87) for 5G Voice App Experience. South Korea again tops the table and there are just a few points separating all the markets.

The new 5G network generation offers a very significantly faster average 5G Download Speed in every market Opensignal has analyzed to date. All of the top 15 global markets for 5G vs 4G Download Speed improvement saw speeds at least five times faster using 5G compared with older 4G technology. Users in both Taiwan and the Philippines saw 5G Download Speeds over 10 times faster than 4G. But in most markets where operators have deployed new mid-band spectrum for 5G, the uplift multiplier for 5G is typically five to six times faster compared with 4G.

Three markets saw 5G Video Experience increase by 20% or more over 4G: Philippines (29%), Thailand (23%) and Israel (20%). Last time, just two markets saw such an improvement. All the top 15 ranked markets saw a double digit jump in Video Experience using 5G.

South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. all move up the rankings for 5G Availability, which represents the proportion of time when users have an active 5G connection. South Korea is now top globally with a score of 28.1% ahead of Saudi Arabia (26.6%), Kuwait (26.3%) and Hong Kong (25.3%). Notably, the U.S. with 20.8% has moved up from sixth to fifth. 5G Availability scores have mostly been flat or even very slightly declined since Opensignal’s previous report. However, these small changes are likely because of seasonal changes in user behavior such as spending more time outside or in different parts of the country during the summer months and are not a sign of any problems with the 5G roll outs.

While there is no change in the top five rankings for 5G Reach – the share of locations where users see 5G service – many of the scores have edged up. Hong Kong has risen from 6.1 to 6.5 on the 10 point scale, Kuwait from 5.2 to 5.4, the U.S. from 5 to 5.2. 

In every market, the 5G experience is considerably better than 4G. But upgraders should look at their market to understand the extent of the improvement over their current mobile experience. Those that care about download speed or mobile gaming will see the greatest jump with current 5G services.

However, upgraders should think ahead across the 2-4 years that most people hold onto their smartphone. In that time the 5G mobile experience will accelerate further ahead, while 4G is a mature technology that will see no significant improvement. To benefit from that 5G jump, upgraders must make sure they choose a 5G-enabled model.