While 5G has been live in New Zealand since December 2019, users have not been as mobile as usual because the majority of the 5G era has coincided with the pandemic. Kiwis have been relying on Wifi more than normal, especially at home. However, this new Opensignal analysis shows that smartphone users see much faster speeds connected to 5G than when using Wifi. And, for multiplayer mobile gaming 5G is on par with Wifi, unlike older 4G which was noticeably inferior to Wifi.
As restrictions start to ease in Auckland users will increasingly be mobile again, and will rely more on 4G and 5G services. Additionally, the quality of the 5G experience shows that 5G has the potential to offer better connectivity inside homes, shops, offices and other locations where Wifi is available. And, if lockdowns do return, 5G will make cellular services more relevant — for example as a fixed wireless solution.
While smartphone users’ Wifi speeds were on average 8.7 Mbps (20.7%) faster than those seen on 4G, 5G speeds were a breathtaking 190.2 Mbps faster than the average speeds of 50.5 Mbps when connected to Wifi. Clearly, the arrival of 5G changes the balance between cellular and Wifi connectivity — as with 5G cellular connections are typically faster than on Wifi. whereas Wifi has the advantage when cellular users are connected to 4G.
Our Kiwi smartphone users clocked up an impressive 240.7 Mbps for 5G Download Speed — 4.8 times and 5.7 times faster than the average speeds seen when connected to Wifi or 4G, respectively. This performance isn’t just impressive at the national level — in our recent Benchmarking the Global 5G Experience — November 2021 analysis, New Zealand placed in the top 15 markets for 5G Download Speed and for the improvement in speeds using 5G relative to 4G.
Turning to one of the pastimes that has benefited from the pandemic, our Kiwi users saw no statistically significant difference in their experience when playing multiplayer mobile games on smartphones when on Wifi or when connected to 5G, with scores of 77.5 and 79.9 points for Games Experience on a 100 point scale, respectively. 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, it analyzes how the multiplayer mobile gaming experience is affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter to determine the impact on gameplay and the overall experience..
When using either Wifi or 5G, our users’ typical experience when playing multiplayer mobile games on smartphones was Good (75<85). This means that the gameplay experience was generally controllable and the user received immediate feedback between their actions and the outcomes in the game. Most users did not experience a delay between their actions and the game.
In contrast, our Kiwi users had a Fair (65<75) 4G Games Experience and a Poor (40<65) 3G Games Experience, with scores of 73 and 42.8 points, respectively. In effect, the quality of 5G made cellular competitive with Wifi for multiplayer smartphone gaming.
The arrival of 5G means that Wifi is no longer always superior to cellular
This new Opensignal analysis shows the arrival of 5G means that cellular connections are no longer always inferior to Wifi. That said, average 5G download speeds are faster than Wifi and 5G gaming is on par with that on Wifi. However, Wifi will continue to have an important role — especially when backing up files and downloading large apps due to the low cost of data it provides compared to many mobile plans. Also, 5G services need to expand considerably because in the majority of locations only 4G is available — our New Zealand 5G users were connected to 5G in only 1.3 out of 10 locations they visited in the 90 days ending on 29 October. Operators are addressing this issue — for example, Spark is aiming to hit roughly 90% 5G population coverage by the end of 2023, while 2degrees is seeking to launch its commercial 5G service in Q1 2022 and it recently turned on its 5G network for testing and optimisation in central Auckland and Wellington.
While Wifi is improving due to growing adoption of WiFi 6 (802.11ax), the Wifi experience is often bottlenecked by the fixed broadband connection that Wifi acts as the front-end for. It is often faster and less expensive for operators to invest in their mobile networks and improve the user experience, than it is to lay new fiber to upgrade fixed broadband across a country — especially in one with large rural areas like New Zealand.
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