The U.S. is one of the leading 5G markets globally with users on different U.S. operators enjoying extremely fast 5G speeds or sizable amounts of time connected to 5G technology. However, U.S. carriers are using different types of wireless spectrum compared to carriers in other countries which means the 5G experience in the U.S. varies dramatically from one operator to another.
The U.S. was extremely early to launch 5G services. Like operators in South Korea, U.S. operators first launched 5G services for smartphone users in April 2019. Now, just over a year since 5G arrived, Opensignal is analyzing the real-world experience of 5G smartphone users in the U.S. to see how the experience stacks up.
While carriers in other countries mostly use new mid-band wireless spectrum for 5G, U.S, carriers have had to take a different approach because that 3.5Ghz spectrum was unavailable and being used by other services. However, this will soon change as The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to auction mid-band spectrum later this year. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile launched 5G services using mmWave – the only commercial 5G mmWave services anywhere globally – while Sprint used spare spectrum on its existing 2.5Ghz mid-band.
However, the bulk of time AT&T and T-Mobile users see 5G they are actually connecting to low-band 850MHz or 600MHz spectrum rather than those carriers' mmWave-based 5G services. Those wireless frequencies are also used for 4G service and offer good reach but more modest speeds than the higher frequency 5G-only frequencies. What this means is that the current U.S. 5G experience is very different to other countries and also differs greatly between U.S. carriers.
For the first time, Opensignal presents 5G awards in the U.S. We have analyzed our 5G users' experience across three 5G measures: the average speed of the 5G connection when users have an active 5G link, or 5G Download Speed; the time users spend connected to 5G represented by 5G Availability; and the overall speed our 5G users experience across different generations of mobile technology, we call this Download Speed Experience – 5G Users. This last measure combines the average speeds that 5G users experience on 3G or 4G when they are not connected to 5G, with their average 5G speeds, based on the amount of time they spend connected to each generation of mobile network technology. Our 5G users have both a 5G smartphone and a 5G plan.