Analyzing how 5G has improved the mobile experience on Germany’s motorways

Coverage issues and mobile white spots have been a key area of focus in Germany for a long time. Mobile operators in recent years have made significant progress in closing their coverage gaps across rural areas and along the nation’s roads, but 5G is raising the bar for the quality of mobile experience. 

Mobile operators, often in collaboration with research facilities and car manufacturers, are now exploring new applications including connected vehicles and autonomous driving, which can be supported by very high-performance networks with low latency and high reliability — what 5G technology is promising. For these applications to have the greatest chance of success in the real world, operators will need to provide a seamless 5G experience across the country’s transport networks.

Opensignal analyzed our users’ mobile experience on Germany’s motorways and compared that against the average scores seen in the country. Also, we looked at the difference between the 5G experience and the overall experience of all our users to analyze the benefits of having an active 5G connection. We found that our users generally had a better mobile experience when on motorways — compared to the country average — and that 5G provided a significant boost to the mobile scores seen by our users.

We analyzed two measures of the mobile signal availability for our German users — Time with no signal and 5G Availability. Our users in Germany spent the vast majority of the time connected to mobile networks, and their average time with no signal was just 1.2%. But when we focused on Germany’s motorways, we observed an even better score, as our users had no signal just 0.7% of the time. In situations like car breakdowns or accidents, it is key for people to be able to promptly contact the authorities, meaning that having a mobile signal on motorways is of utmost importance.

Because of the way that radio signal propagates, smartphone users are more likely to be able to connect to a mobile network when they are outdoors, or on a flat terrain with limited obstacles — like a motorway — rather than when they are indoors — where users generally spend the majority of their time — with lots of obstacles in between them and the cell site. This was particularly evident when we looked at 5G Availability, because of the prevalent use of the 3.5 GHz frequency band for 5G in Germany, and the fact that higher frequency bands have a harder time propagating indoors compared to lower frequencies. In fact, we observed a 5G Availability score of 17.6% on Germany’s motorways, which was almost double the average score for the country (8.9%).

Opensignal then looked at our users’ average download and upload speeds. We found that our users had a faster Download Speed Experience on Germany’s motorways (48 Mbps) compared to the country average (43.8 Mbps). But when we analyzed the average 5G download speeds the scores were reversed — our users had a slightly slower 5G Download Speed on the motorways (127.7 Mbps) compared to the country average (135.3 Mbps), although the difference was very limited.

Looking at the upload speeds, in this case we observed a better experience on the motorways for both overall and 5G scores. Our users’ Upload Speed Experience was 13.1 Mbps on the motorways compared to the country average of 11.7 Mbps, while the average 5G upload speeds were 2.3-2.4 times faster, with 30 Mbps on the motorways and an average of 28.4 Mbps across the country.

Finally, we looked at our users’ mobile experience when streaming videos, playing multiplayer mobile games and using voice over-the-top (OTT) voice services across Germany and its major road network. Interestingly, our users always had a better experience on the motorways, compared to the country average, except for 5G Video Experience where there was no statistical difference between the two scores.

Of the three experiential categories, our German users saw the largest improvements fuelled by 5G networks in Video Experience. While our German users’ average Video Experience was 59.8 points (on a 100 point scale), increasing to 62.8 points on motorways, the 5G Video Experience scores reached 79.3 and 78.5 points, respectively. This means that our users’ average experience when streaming video connected to 5G networks was Excellent (75 and above), up two categories compared to the overall scores that rated Good (55-65).

In Games Experience, our users saw an average score of 77.2 points on motorways, compared to 72.3 points for the country average, with the two scores placing in different categories — Good (75-85) and Fair (65-75), respectively. Our users had a better multiplayer mobile gaming experience when connected to 5G networks as their scores reached 85.6 and 82.9 points, on motorways and across the country, meaning that they both moved up one category to Excellent (85 and above) and Good (75-85), respectively.

We observed a smaller variation across overall and 5G scores in the Voice App Experience of our German users at the national level and when connecting to mobile networks on motorways. In fact, Germany’s 5G Voice App Experience was 82.2 points, compared to 78 points in the overall score as experienced by all our users. When on motorways, our users saw 83.2 points with a 5G connection compared to 80.7 points for the overall Voice App Experience score.

Good mobile connectivity is of strategic importance for a country’s infrastructure

Nowadays, mobile technology plays a strategic role in facilitating the flow of people and goods through a country’s transport network. For example, people use navigation apps like Google Maps to guide them to their destination, while many businesses adopted fleet management systems using machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity to keep their fleet running efficiently and on time. Not only mobile operators therefore have the incentive in making sure they provide a good service across a country’s transport network to attract and retain private and business customers, but in Germany they also face coverage obligations urging operators to meet certain connectivity requirements detailed specifically for motorways and railways.

Opensignal data shows that German users generally had a better than average mobile experience on the country’s motorways, and that when they connected to 5G they observed a significant boost to their mobile experience. As the operators continue their 5G rollouts and the technology matures, 5G Availability will also increase and facilitate the introduction of new applications such as autonomous driving and connected vehicles in the real world.