Japan

5G Experience Report
September 2021

Opensignal is the independent global standard for analyzing consumer mobile experience. Our industry reports are the definitive guide to understanding the true experience consumers receive on wireless networks.

Author
Ian Fogg VP Analysis

Key findings

SoftBank wins the first 5G Games Experience award in Japan

With a score of 89.8 on a 100-point scale, SoftBank users enjoy the best multiplayer mobile gaming experience in Japan when connected to 5G. SoftBank was the only operator with an Excellent (85 or above) 5G Games Experience. Joint second are au with a score of 80.9 and Rakuten with 82.1, both rank in the Good category (75<85).

Across the experiential awards, SoftBank dominates with three wins

As well as the 5G Games Experience award, SoftBank also wins 5G Voice App Experience outright and jointly wins 5G Video Experience, as it shares the award with Rakuten. 5G Voice App Experience reflects the use of mobile communication apps such as LINE or WhatsApp for real-time voice chat and 5G Video Experience quantifies how users perceive mobile video streaming.

NTT DoCoMo users experience 5G most often and in the most places

Winning both the 5G Reach and 5G Availability awards, NTT DoCoMo users find it easiest to connect to 5G services. The company's 5G Reach score of 2.2 on a 10 point scale indicates the share of locations where users see 5G compared with all of the locations they visit. Similarly, 5G Availability represents the proportion of time when users have an active 5G connection. As Opensignal reported recently, Japanese operators are increasing both 5G Reach and 5G Availability during 2021 after a slow initial 5G roll out in 2020.

Rakuten wins both the 5G Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed awards

It's unsurprising that Rakuten wins the 5G Upload Speed award because it has long shown an advantage in the upload speeds its users experience in previous Opensignal insights and reports. On top of that, Rakuten users saw average 5G download speeds of 224.3 Mbps. In second place is NTT DoCoMo with a score of 161.4 Mbps. But DoCoMo's 5G will be easier for users to find and experience because Rakuten has the lowest 5G Reach of any operator with a score of 0.3 compared with DoCoMo's 2.2.

On all operators users see extremely fast average download speeds

Compared with the Download Speed Experience scores on all four operators in our companion Japan Mobile Network Experience report — which compares the experience across all users — 5G Download Speeds are much faster. While overall Download Speed Experience ranges from 24 Mbps to 52.4 Mbps, the 5G Download Speed scores are all over 100 Mbps, with impressive speeds of 139.6 Mbps (SoftBank), 151.1 Mbps (au), 161.4 Mbps (NTT DoCoMo) and 224.3 Mbps (Rakuten). As 5G technology improves during the next decade, these speeds should increase.

Introduction

In Opensignal's first report into the 5G mobile network experience across Japan's mobile operators, we see the awards shared across three brands: NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank and Rakuten.

Japan is still near the start of the 5G era. Typically, mobile network technology generations last for at least 10 years. Three of Japan's operators launched 5G just over a year ago in March 2020, while Rakuten launched 5G later on September 30, 2020, and to date Rakuten has focused on its 4G network build over 5G. Like we saw with 3G and 4G previously, 5G technology and the 5G experience that users will enjoy will improve steadily during the 5G era. The 5G experience we see today is just the start. And, all four operators are in the process of extending their 5G networks to hit national coverage, with the pace accelerating in 2021.

Adding more wireless spectrum capacity helps to boost the mobile experience. The new spectrum Japanese operators have deployed is a major reason why 5G is already so superior to older 4G technology. More spectrum will be available for 5G use in the years ahead because the Ministry of Communications is releasing TV spectrum for 5G.

One of the areas where there is most interest in 5G is around mobile gaming because 5G's designers aim to improve the responsiveness, or latency, of mobile networks. In Japan, eSports is set for strong growth, and Opensignal's unique mobile Games Experience quantifies that multiplayer gaming experience.

Already, 5G is much superior to older technologies, and the 5G Games and 5G Video Experience is also superior. This boost in mobile experience is very clear when the results in this 5G Experience report are compared with the companion Japan Mobile Network Experience report — which analyzes the experience across all users, not only those with 5G smartphones and a 5G tariff plan.

In this report, Opensignal sees great differences between the four operators in their users' 5G experience. The real-world measurements used in this report were taken between June 1 and August 29, 2021.

Opensignal Awards Table

5G Mobile Experience Awards, Japan
September 2021, Japan Report
5G Availability
5G Reach
5G Video Experience
5G Games Experience
5G Voice App Experience
5G Download Speed
5G Upload Speed
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Mobile Experience Awards Winners
September 2021, Japan
5G Availability
5G Reach
5G Games Experience
5G Voice App Experience
5G Download Speed
5G Upload Speed
Mobile Experience Awards Draws
September 2021, Japan
5G Video Experience
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Overview

Click on metric labels below for a quick preview
5G Availability
in %
NTT DoCoMo
3.1
Rakuten
1.6
SoftBank
2.0
au
2.5
0 1.25 2.5 3.75 5
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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National Analysis

5G Availability

NTT DoCoMo wins the 5G Availability award with a score of 3.1%. 5G Availability represents the proportion of time users spend with an active 5G connection. If a smartphone user is in an 5G area, but is not connected to 5G, then that time will not be included in the 5G Availability score.

The locations where users spend the most time — typically at home or at work — contribute the most to 5G Availability scores. Where initial 5G services use high frequency spectrum bands that do not penetrate well inside buildings, then scores will likely be low because most work and all home locations are indoors. As mobile operators deploy 5G on more types of spectrum — including bands with better indoor reach — and increase the number of cell sites that offer 5G, then 5G Availability will increase. All four operators are extending their 5G networks during 2021 and 2022.

5G Availability
in %
NTT DoCoMo
3.1
Rakuten
1.6
SoftBank
2.0
au
2.5
0 1.25 2.5 3.75 5
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Reach

NTT DoCoMo also wins the 5G Reach award with a score of 2.2 on a 10 point scale. 5G Reach reflects the proportion of locations where users experience 5G. SoftBank and au are close behind with scores of 1.4 and 1.3 respectively. However, Rakuten lags with a score of just 0.3, indicating how the new mobile network operator has been focused on building out its 4G network alongside, and often ahead of, its 5G network.

Notably, across all operators the share of locations where Opensignal users see 5G — 5G Reach — is greater than the proportion of time that users spend connected to 5G. Most likely, this variation is due to the difference between outdoor and indoor 5G experience at the moment because the time connected to 5G is more affected by how well 5G signals penetrate inside buildings.

5G Reach
in 0-10 points
NTT DoCoMo
2.2
Rakuten
0.3
SoftBank
1.4
au
1.3
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Video Experience

SoftBank jointly wins the 5G Video Experience award with a score of 78.6. Rakuten ties with SoftBank because of wide confidence intervals that make its score of 74.9 a statistical tie. These wide intervals are due to a combination of fewer Rakuten 5G video users and a wide variation in the 5G Video Experience scores experienced by those users. As Rakuten expands its 5G service and acquires more 5G customers, its average score is more likely to change than the scores on other operators that have narrower confidence intervals.

5G Video Experience reflects users' perception of the quality of the mobile video streaming experience in the real world when connected to 5G. The metric is derived from an International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach, built upon detailed studies which have derived a relationship between technical parameters, including picture quality, video loading time and stall rate, with the perceived video experience as reported by real people. To calculate video experience, we are directly measuring video streams from end-user devices and using this ITU approach to quantify the overall video experience for each operator on a scale from 0 to 100. The videos tested include a mixture of resolutions and are streamed directly from the world's largest video content providers.

5G Video Experience
in 0-100 points
NTT DoCoMo
75.3
Rakuten
74.9
SoftBank
78.6
au
75.0
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Games Experience

For multiplayer mobile gaming, SoftBank enjoys a clear win in the new 5G Games Experience category with a score of 89.8 on a 100-point scale. In second place, au and Rakuten tie with scores of 80.9 and 82.1 respectively.

5G Games Experience quantifies the experience when playing real-time multiplayer mobile games on mobile devices using 5G connected to servers located around the world on multiple game genres including 'battle royale' and MOBA (massive online battle arena). Examples of battle royale games include: PUBG, Fornite, Garena Freefire while examples of MOBA titles include Arena of Valor.

The approach is built on several years of research quantifying the relationship between technical network parameters and the gaming experience as reported by real mobile users. These parameters include latency (round trip time), jitter (variability of latency) and packet loss (the proportion of data packets that never reach their destination).

5G Games Experience
in 0-100 points
NTT DoCoMo
64.0
Rakuten
82.1
SoftBank
89.8
au
80.9
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Voice App Experience

With a score of 85 on a 100-point scale, SoftBank wins the 5G Voice App Experience award. Again, as with 5G Games Experience, Rakuten and au are tied in second place with scores of 82.9 and 83.3 respectively. While users with those operators enjoy a Good experience using 5G (80<87), NTT DoCoMo slips into the Acceptable (74<80) category. On 5G Voice App Experience, Good means that many users were satisfied. Minor quality impairments were experienced by some users. Sometimes the background was not quite clear, it could be either hazy or not loud enough. Clicking sounds or distortion was very occasionally present..

Opensignal's 5G Voice App Experience measures the quality of experience when connected to 5G for over-the-top (OTT) voice services using a model derived from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)-based approach for quantifying overall voice call quality and a series of calibrated technical parameters. Examples of mobile voice apps include LINE, WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. This model characterizes the exact relationship between the technical measurements and perceived call quality.

5G Voice App Experience
in 0-100 points
NTT DoCoMo
79.6
Rakuten
82.9
SoftBank
85.0
au
83.3
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Download Speed

Opensignal users on all four operators saw average 5G Download Speeds over 100 Mbps. Rakuten wins the 5G Download Speed award with a score of 224.3 Mbps. However, the wide confidence intervals indicate there is greater uncertainty around the speed that our Rakuten users experienced using 5G compared with the other operators reflecting the lower 5G Reach and 5G Availability of Rakuten compared to NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank and au.

NTT DoCoMo users saw the second fastest 5G Download Speed with an average of 161.4 Mbps, ahead of au's score of 151.1 Mbps and SoftBank's on 139.6 Mbps. All the operators saw much faster 5G Download Speeds than the overall Download Speed Experience of all users — see our related Japan Mobile Network Experience report for details.

5G Download Speed
in Mbps
NTT DoCoMo
161.4
Rakuten
224.3
SoftBank
139.6
au
151.1
0 56.25 112.5 168.75 225
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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5G Upload Speed

Rakuten has a clear win in the 5G Upload Speed award with an average speed of 32 Mbps ahead of SoftBank with a score of 23.7 Mbps in second place, au on 13.8 Mbps and NTT DoCoMo with 7.9 Mbps. Rakuten has won the overall Upload Speed Experience award in our last two reports on Japan and does so again in the companion report so this 5G result is not a surprise.

Upload speed is important for sharing photos, video or sending documents using email or connecting to company virtual private networks (VPNs). At this stage of the 5G market, operators and their network equipment suppliers have focused less on the upload experience. But as 5G is launched on more spectrum bands, especially lower frequency bands, the 5G Upload Speed will improve because it will become easier for a 5G smartphone to transmit data over 5G.

5G Upload Speed
in Mbps
NTT DoCoMo
7.9
Rakuten
32.0
SoftBank
23.7
au
13.8
0 8.75 17.5 26.25 35
The brackets represent confidence intervals.
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Learn more

Opensignal measures the real-world experience of consumers on mobile networks in the places they live, work and travel.

We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the true experience of smartphone users. Therefore, comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only.

For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars. In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

More about Methodology

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For every metric we calculate statistical confidence intervals indicated on our graphs. When confidence intervals overlap, our measured results are too close to declare a winner. In those cases, we show a statistical draw. For this reason, some metrics have multiple operator winners.

In our bar graphs we represent confidence intervals as boundaries on either sides of graph bars.

In our supporting-metric charts we show confidence intervals as +/- numerical values.

Why confidence intervals are vital in analyzing mobile network experience

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