Skip to main content

Lack of 5G spectrum hurts Poland’s 5G experience

Get our latest reports straight to your inbox. Subscribe
Share this article

Poland compares poorly with other Central and Eastern markets for 5G experience. For 5G Video Experience, 5G Download Speed, and 5G Upload Speed Poland has the lowest average score out of the eight markets. Remarkably, the 5G download and upload speeds experienced by our Polish users are much slower — average 5G download speeds are just 77.8Mbps — than in other nearby international markets. Poland’s challenge is the small amount of new spectrum suitable for 5G services that is available for Polish operators. However, Polish 5G users spend more time connected to 5G services than some of their CEE counterparts.

Looking at 5G speed metrics in Central and Eastern Europe — Bulgaria dominates in the region, scoring a 5G speed hat-trick. Our Bulgarian users enjoy the fastest 5G Download Speed, above the 300Mbps mark — 23.1% faster than Croatia, which takes the second spot among the compared markets in the region with a score of 245.2Mbps. Slovenia wins the bronze with a score of 201.7Mbps. Bulgaria also has the highest 5G Peak Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed in the region, again ahead of the runner-up Croatia — although for 5G Upload Speed, Croatia is in a statistical tie for second place with the Czech Republic.

Compared to the regional frontrunners Poland visibly falls behind, bringing up the rear in all three 5G speed metrics. With Poland’s average 5G Download Speed of 77.9Mbps, our Bulgarian users see speeds nearly four times as high as those achieved in Poland — and even Poland’s 5G Peak Download Speed score of 245.1Mbps is slower than Bulgaria’s average 5G Download Speed score. Poland is the only market aside from the Czech Republic with average 5G download speeds below 100Mbps in the region — and the only market below 20Mbps for 5G Upload Speed. 

Poland does not fare much better regarding regional rankings for the 5G experiential metrics — 5G Video Experience, 5G Games Experience, and 5G Voice App Experience. It comes last for all these metrics, statistically tied together with other markets, e.g. with Hungary for 5G Video Experience or with Romania for 5G Games Experience. 

However, the gap between Poland and other CEE markets is not as staggering as in the case of 5G speed metrics. The spread between the highest and lowest scores in the region is 4.3 points for 5G Video Experience and only 2.5 points for 5G Voice App Experience on a 100-point scale — and all the countries in the region rate as Very Good (68-78) for 5G Video Experience and as Good (80-87) for 5G Voice App Experience. Only for 5G Games Experience did we observe a wider spread between the highest and lowest score, of 11.3 points.

Speaking of the highest scores in the region — Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are statistically tied for the 5G Video Experience leadership in the regions, with scores of 76.5-77.8 points. Czech Republic and Slovakia share the top spot for 5G Games Experience and place in the Excellent (85 or above) category, along with Hungary and Slovenia, tied for third place in the region. The Czech Republic also comes first for Voice App Experience, sharing the recognition with Hungary.

Turning to coverage metrics — we see a more promising story for Poland in 5G Availability, as our 5G users in this market spend 15.2% of their time with an active 5G connection. This is the third highest result in the region, after Bulgaria’s 24.6% and Croatia’s 19.5%.

Bulgaria also takes the top spot for 5G Reach, with a score of 5.6 points on a 10-point scale. This means our Bulgarian users connect to 5G services in more than five out of 10 locations in the country. Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia are tied for second place with scores of 4.1-4.6 points. Poland comes sixth in the CEE with a score of 3.4 points and is statistically tied with Hungary.

Comparing 5G Download Speed to 4G Download Speed across the eight observed CEE markets, Poland sees the lowest 5G to 4G uplift, of only 2.4 times — on par with the Czech Republic. Other CEE markets observe much more impressive improvements on 5G networks, with our users in Slovenia and Bulgaria enjoying more than five times faster speeds on 5G than on 4G. Poland’s 4G Download Speed is 32.9Mbps — similar to the speeds seen in Hungary (34.7Mbps) or Romania (31.8Mbps) — yet both of these markets observe much higher 5G to 4G uplifts, of 4.5 and 4.7 times, respectively. 

An important factor that explains the glaring disparity between Poland and its peers in terms of 5G mobile network experience is the fact that Poland has not yet assigned the 3.5GHz band to 5G services. It and the Netherlands are the only markets in the European Union where this is the case — and Polish operators are forced to use lower bands, such as 2.1GHz or 2.6GHz. As a result, the average amount of spectrum used for 5G connections that our users see is much smaller in Poland (34.9MHz) than in other CEE markets — and only around 20% more than that used for 4G connectivity on average (29.1MHz).

Meanwhile, Opensignal users in Croatia and Bulgaria, two CEE leaders in 5G speed categories, see around twice as much spectrum used for their 5G connections — 74.5MHz and 64.8MHz, respectively. Slovenian operators use more than twice as much bandwidth for 5G connections than for 4G, followed by Bulgaria at 83.6% more bandwidth and Hungary at 79.4% more bandwidth.

New 5G spectrum is needed in Poland to boost the 5G experience

The case of Poland is a strong reminder of how crucial spectrum assets are for the steady development of 5G connectivity. While the initial auction was planned for March 2020, the process was derailed by the pandemic and delayed by the work of the Polish government on the amendments to the Act on the National Cybersecurity System. In December 2022, Poland’s telecommunications regulator UKE launched a consultation process on the 3.5GHz band, lasting until the end of March 2023 — however, it is yet to announce the date of a spectrum auction. Without the 3.5GHz spectrum, Polish operators will not be able to unleash the full potential of 5G connectivity and the Polish 5G experience will remain barely competitive, compared to markets both in Central and Eastern Europe and those in Western Europe, as our recent analysis on Italy shows where the 3.5 GHz band has been assigned.