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Benchmarking the GCC 5G Experience — August 2022

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Across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 5G is rapidly becoming the most important wireless connectivity technology. 5G is boosting the experience in all six GCC markets, although there are significant differences in the mobile experience between them. In this first GCC 5G Experience Benchmark, Opensignal quantifies users’ 5G experience for mobile video streaming, multiplayer mobile gaming, voice app communication, availability, speed as well as the uplift in experience compared with older 4G services.

The UAE tops the GCC 5G rankings for 5G Download Speed with users having experienced average speeds of 316.8 Mbps, ahead of Qatar’s score of 278.5 Mbps and a score of 263.4 Mbps in Kuwait. The same three markets top the table for 5G Peak Download Speed as well, with a score of 743.3 Mbps in UAE, 713.4 Mbps in Qatar and 663.7 Mbps in Kuwait. 5G Peak Download Speed was over twice as fast as the average 5G Download Speed in all six GCC markets. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman the difference was closer to three times as fast — the ratio between 5G peak and average speeds was 2.7 times.

As we have seen with the most recent Opensignal Global 5G Experience Benchmark, the results for 5G Upload Speed were considerably slower than the 5G Download Speed. Average 5G upload speeds were approximately one tenth the speed of users’ average 5G download speeds because the designers of these initial versions of 5G technologies have focused on the download connection.

Kuwait is top for 5G Video Experience and is the only market where users experienced an Excellent experience (75 or above). While UAE is top for 5G Download Speed its score slips behind Kuwait on 5G Video Experience with a score of 72.4 on a 100-point scale. However, while placing second for 5G Download Speed, on mobile video streaming Qatar drops further down with a score of 68.6. Other than Kuwait, all five other markets had a Very Good 5G Video Experience (65-75) meaning that users saw generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling.

For 5G Games Experience, UAE ranks first with a score of 74 on a 100 point scale. It has a clear lead over Qatar (69.6), Bahrain (69.6) and Kuwait (67.4). 5G Games Experience quantifies the multiplayer real-time gaming experience of users connecting with 5G technology. It is underpinned by several years of research that have quantified the relationship between the technical network parameters that Opensignal measures at scale in the real-world and users’ gaming experience. Games tested reflect the most popular multiplayer gaming genres including battle royale (examples include PUBG, Fortnite), massive online battle arena (MOBA, an example is Arena of Valor), as well as sports titles such as Pro Evolution Soccer.

There was only a modest difference in the 5G Voice App Experience. This measures the experience for over-the-top voice services using popular mobile voice apps examples of which include WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and Facetime. Qatar tops the rankings with a score of 80.6 on a 100-point scale. But only 3.2 points separated the six GCC markets.     

There was a vast difference in the speeds users experienced using 5G compared with older 4G technology in all six markets. Average 5G Download Speed was between 8.6 and 5.6 times faster. Similarly, there is a large jump in 5G Video Experience with 5G connectivity boosting the mobile video streaming experience by between 45% and 24%. These stark differences highlight the importance of helping users to connect to 5G as often as possible so they can enjoy this better experience.

When we compare the time users spent with an active 5G connection — 5G Availability — it is striking how well Saudi Arabia does with a 5G Availability score of 28.2%. While Saudi Arabia ranks third, it is by far the largest market in both geographic area and by population and yet its score is only a small number of percentage points behind Bahrain (34.9%) and Kuwait (33.6%). Plus, much smaller markets than Saudi Arabia score lower with Qatar scoring 16.9%, UAE 15.3% and Oman scoring 13.9%.

5G is continuing to advance across the GCC. In all six markets, users experience much improved speeds and video experience using 5G. While smaller markets top the rankings for 5G Download Speed, the position of Saudi Arabia is notable: its users saw a strong uplift in both speed and video experience as well as good 5G Availability despite its size. With newer versions of 5G technology on the way, and the extent of 5G services growing, Opensignal will continue to gauge the real-world 5G experience across the GCC and how fast GCC users’ experience improves.