5G Impact on the Global Mobile Network Experience

February 2022

Real-world experience
Scientific analysis
Ian Fogg
VP Analysis

Key Findings

In the 5G era, overall average download speeds have increased almost everywhere

Across both 4G-only markets and in 5G markets, Download Speed Experience has risen in the last three years. In 95 of 100 global markets, smartphone users have seen their average download speed increase between the first quarter of 2019 — before 5G — and the last quarter of 2021.

Global rankings have changed because of 5G

South Korea now tops global Games Experience, up from 10th place at the start of 2020. Markets where 5G arrived later (e.g. Malaysia, New Zealand, Czech Republic) or where new wireless spectrum capacity for exclusive 5G usage is in short supply (e.g. Singapore) have fallen down the download speed rankings. While those with ample new 5G spectrum have risen, notably Finland, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the UK, and the UAE.

National average speeds have broken the 100 Mbps barrier for the first time

In South Korea average download speeds were 129.7 Mbps at the end of 2021, up from 52.4 Mbps at the start of 2019, before 5G. Similarly, our users’ speeds more than doubled in Germany rising from 22.6 to 48.7 Mbps, in the Philippines (from 7 to 15.1 Mbps), Saudi Arabia (13.6 to 31.1 Mbps), and in Thailand (5.7 to 17.4 Mbps) — all of which are 5G markets.

All top 20 global markets for Games Experience in 2021 have launched 5G

In first place is South Korea with a score of 88.5 on a 100-point scale, followed by the Netherlands (85.5). Both markets rate as Excellent (85 or above). But there is less evidence that 5G explains these high rankings because comparing the percentage change we see for scores in 4G markets have jumped similarly to the Games Experience in 5G markets.

In 98% of 5G markets speeds have risen at the slowest hour of the day

New 5G wireless spectrum and improved backhaul from cell sites has helped operators relieve congestion. At the slowest hour of the day, typically 8pm or 9pm at night, average download speeds have increased despite growth in mobile data usage.

The best 5G experiences are yet to come

Current 5G networks mostly use Release 15, but there are new standards coming. More wireless spectrum will arrive which should boost speeds considerably, even in markets that already offer 5G. Responsiveness will improve with updated 5G technology, e.g. Release 17. Networks will support many more devices simultaneously. Reliability should be boosted. Analyzing the real-world mobile experience, using a single methodology globally, enables everyone to see if the promises of 5G’s designers are being fulfilled for users.

Read the full report

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