Mobile download speeds in Seoul are 41% faster than Singapore or Sydney

Posted on June 4, 2019 by Ian Fogg

Smartphone users in Seoul experience the fastest speeds in any of the Asia Pacific cities we analyzed. Seoul’s Download Speed Experience score of 56.3 Mbps was an astonishing 41% faster than second- placed Singapore or third-placed Sydney, and almost double that of Tokyo or Taipei.

With 5G arriving, the mobile speeds smartphone users experience across these lead cities represent the benchmark that initial 5G services must better to justify the 5G name. If the real-world experience of 5G is not significantly faster than current mobile services then operators will find it hard to charge more for 5G service, justify further network investments or explain the benefits of 5G to acquire new customers.

Seoul’s mobile operators will be looking to extend their lead because South Korea is the first country to see significant numbers of 5G smartphone users. At the start of May there were 260,000 5G subscribers in South Korea which is orders of magnitude more than in any other country (although it's still very early days for the next generation of mobile technology) but is still a fraction of South Korea’s 51m people. Also, these 5G customers signed up right at the end of the data collection period used in this analysis and therefore didn't have a significant impact on Seoul’s results because Opensignal’s active installed base is over 10 million devices in South Korea — almost all of which continue to use 4G smartphones.

At Opensignal, we understand operators manage mobile video differently and so we have designed a special test to measure real-world mobile: Video Experience. While Seoul dominated mobile speeds in our results, it was Taipei that ranked first for mobile Video Experience among the cities we analyzed, slightly ahead of Singapore and Sydney.

Opensignal's Video Experience metric is derived from an ITU-based approach for determining video quality. The metric calculation takes picture quality, video loading time and stall rate into account. We report Video Experience on a scale of 0-100, with scores falling into the following categories:

75-100 Excellent
65-75 Very Good
55-65 Good
40-55 Fair
0-40 Poor

As in both Download Speed and Upload Speed Experience, Hong Kong continued to lag behind similarly advanced economies with high GDP. Here, for mobile Video Experience, Hong Kong ranked sixth out of the twelve Asia Pacific cities Opensignal analyzed.

In the advanced economies of Asia, a decade after 4G launched, it might be expected that smartphone users would spend all of their time connected to a 4G network. But in Singapore our measurements show 4G Availability was just 90% compared with 98.4% in Seoul. In part, this explains the high mobile speeds and low latencies that smartphone users experience in South Korea’s capital.

In our analysis, we see a correlation between high levels of time spent on 4G and users enjoying a more responsive mobile network experience and a good overall Latency Experience. However, the correlation is not perfect. While users in Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong enjoyed the highest 4G Availability, users in Singapore, Sydney, Taipei and Singapore enjoyed slightly lower latencies.

Across multiple measures, Opensignal’s analysis highlights the wide range of mobile network experience across cities in Asia Pacific. Seoul dominates speed and will look to extend its lead over traditionally strong cities like Singapore using its early 5G launch.

With further 5G launches planned across the region, those cities which are lagging today should look to use the capacity provided by new 5G spectrum and technology to move ahead and establish themselves as the leading locations for mobile network experience.

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