OpenSignal reports on 5G Speeds and 4G LTE Experience in South Korea & Other Countries

Introduction:

South Korea wireless telcos have all deployed pre-standard versions of “5G,” based on 3GPP Release 15 NR NSA.  That relies on a “LTE anchor” for signaling, mobile packet core, etc.  Are those “5G” speeds significantly greater than 4G LTE Advanced Pro which AT&T claims is 5GE?

Opensignal has published what it says is  the first “real analysis” of 5G download speeds as of June 20, 2019.  Their latest report (June 2019) is on  the performance of various 4G LTE wireless carriers and devices in South Korea.

5G Speeds in South Korea:

The market research firm reveals that the average 5G download speeds in South Korea (for the Samsung S10 5G and LG Electronics V50 ThinQ 5G) is 111.8 Mbps (see illustrations below), or 48% faster than comparable recent 4G smartphones, and 134% faster than other 4G LTE phones.

While those average 5G speeds outpace what 4G devices obtain, Opensignal’s results show that those averages track well behind the maximum capabilities supported by 5G in South Korea.  The vast majority of South Korean 5G smartphone users currently have either the Samsung S10 5G or LG V50 smart phone. Therefore, we compared these 5G users with owners of 4G flagship smartphone from those two brands released in 2018 and 2019, this includes: Samsung S9, S9+, Note 9, S10e, S10, S10+ and  LG G7 range, V40, and G8.

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Opensignal lists maximum 5G download speeds of 1.2 Gbit/s in the U.S. and 988 Mbit/s in South Korea.

“While 1.2 Gbps is the maximum (download) speed experienced by Opensignal users in real-world conditions, Opensignal has seen speeds as high as 1.5 Gbps in the U.S. using our software but in test conditions that do not reflect the real-world experience.”

Currently, 5G smartphone users connect to both a 4G spectrum band and a (3GPP Release 15) 5G New Radio (NR) band simultaneously in what is called Non-Standalone Access (NSA) mode. Effectively, the system is using 5G for raw download bandwidth, but uses 4G for other network functions. When operators launch services based on Standalone Access, 5G smartphones will be able to connect exclusively to a 5G NR signal and latencies should decrease significantly, improving the experience for consumer applications such as online multiplayer games like Fortnite or PUBG, as well as internet-based voice communication like FaceTime, Tango, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, LINE, etc.  Opensignal expects the experience of 5G users to change during the course of 2019 as 5G’s coverage improves and vendors resolve initial 5G problems.

While there is a significant increase in the average download speeds experienced by 5G smartphone users, both upload speeds and latency — a measure of the responsiveness of the network — are similar between 4G smartphone users and 5G smartphone users. This upload and latency finding is what Opensignal would expect at this early stage of the 5G era because initial 5G technology does not yet seek to improve either characteristic.

As vendors fix 5G teething issues and refine their solutions, peak and average 5G speeds will improve. And, while some 5G frequency bands are not available in particular countries yet – for example 3.5Ghz in the U.S., mmWave in Europe – they will be over the next few years and experience gained from other countries will help carriers improve these later 5G roll outs.

4G LTE Speeds in South Korea and other countries:

South Korea was the only country where smartphone users enjoyed average mobile Download Speeds over 50 Mbps, although Norway was close behind with 48.2 Mbps. Then there was a bit of a drop in speeds to the next two countries, Canada and the Netherlands, where OpenSignal measured Download Speed Experience at just over 42 Mbps. The remaining six of the top 10 markets scored in the 33-40 Mbps range. The global average score of the 87 countries analyzed was 17.6 Mbps — barely a third of the top score.

Canada’s impressive third place is little surprise. Users experienced over 35 Mbps in Download Speed Experience, while speeds of over 60 Mbps weren’t uncommon in the country’s biggest cities.

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4G LTE Mobile Experience in South Korea:

OpenSignal said there was a wide variety of of their metrics in Download Speed Experience, with average speeds ranging from over 50 Mbps to less than 2 Mbps. There were 13 countries with Download Speed Experience scores over 30 Mbps, while 35 of the 87 markets measured fell into the 10-20 Mbps range, and 20 scored under 10 Mbps.

For 4G Availability, LG U+ achieved a near-perfect score.  All three South Korean wireless operators were able to deliver a 4G signal to their users more than 95% of the time, putting them among the global elite in 4G reach. LG U+ went further. Its 4G Availability score of 99.5% means that there was practically no instance where our users couldn’t find a 4G connection during our data collection period.

South Korea rates highly in Video Experience. U+ and SK telecom both landed in the Very Good range (65-75 in our 100-point scale) in Video Experience, while KT was less than a point shy of achieving the same rating. That indicates that the consumer Video Experience in South Korea is commendable, exhibiting short load times and little stalling during playback. But South Korea’s operators didn’t score as highly in Video Experience as operators in many other countries, despite their superiority in most of our other metrics. Extremely fast speeds and ubiquitous 4G reach don’t always translate into an Excellent consumer Video Experience.

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Conclusions:

Opensignal believes that these early results will improve and change as 5G matures. The firm notes that early 5G networks, like those in South Korea, use the non-standalone 5G spec (3GPP Release 15 NR NSA), which relies on the 5G data plane for downloads, but utilizes 4G LTE for control plane functions.

Opensignal says that average speeds will improve as standalone 5G is deployed and more 5G frequency bands are used.

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References:

https://www.opensignal.com/blog/2019/06/20/5g-smartphone-users-experience-1118-mbps-average-download-speed

https://www.opensignal.com/reports/2019/06/southkorea/mobile-network-experience

https://www.opensignal.com/sites/opensignal-com/files/data/reports/global/data-2019-05/the_state_of_mobile_experience_may_2019_0.pdf

https://www.lightreading.com/mobile/5g/average-5g-speeds-in-south-korea-fall-well-behind-maximums-opensignal-finds-/d/d-id/752313?

 

 

Key findings in OpenSignal’s “State of the Mobile Network Experience” report

According to a new OpenSignal report, South Korea is well ahead of any other country in the world when it comes to Download speed experience, with average speeds topping 50 Mbps.   Only Norway comes close, with even third-placed Canada a clear 10 Mbps behind.  OpenSignal saw a huge range of scores in this metric, with the lowest average score being less than 2 Mbps.

Download Speed Experience_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

The biggest variation between Upload speed experience scores of our users was at the top end of the table, where the gap between leader Denmark and tenth-placed Canada was over 5 Mbps.

In only 13 of the 87 countries we rated our users averaged Latency experience scores under 40 milliseconds, while none scored under 30ms. One continent dominated our Latency Experience analysis, with six European countries in our top 10.5G’s designers target much improved latency as one of their goals.

At the other end of the scale we inevitably have developing countries, but it’s surprising to see India still lagging at 6.8 Mbps average despite all the investment from Reliance Jio, which has been focused on coverage rather than speed.   India is doing a lot better in terms of 4G availability. The average Indian mobile user has access to 4G about 91% of the time according to OpenSignal.

Only four European countries made OpenSignal’s 4G Availability top 10 — the fewest of any of our award metrics. And both the U.S. and India made the top 10, despite being distinctly mid-table in all other key metrics.  One of the standout countries to feature in the top five of our 4G Availability rankings was the U.S. which was distinctly mid-table across all other key award metrics but managed a fifth-place finish in 4G Availability. In our most recent Mobile Network Experience USA report, we saw Verizon overtake T-Mobile following a fierce battle in this metric. This rivalry has driven up 4G Availability in the country, leading to a world-class position for the U.S. in our rankings.

4G Availability_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

Indeed, 4G is becoming more and more ubiquitous, even in developing markets. OpenSignal’s analysis shows that the average 4G Availability
across the 87 countries experienced by our users is close to 80%, with 15 markets scoring over the 90% mark. The top ends of our tables were
largely dominated by European countries, but no one country appeared in the top 10 for all five of our key metrics. European countries, however,
dominated, racking up far more top 10 entries than any other region.

In a ranking of the 10 countries who scored highly across all five key metrics, only two were from outside Europe.

Comparison of leading countries in Opensignal key metrics_Opensignal State of Mobile Network Experience 2019

Norway was #1 in the Video Experience category despite of being even worse than Korea when comes to latency.  Hungary was #2.  Astonishingly,  only six non European countries among the top 25 who all scored a Very Good rating (65-75 out of 100).

5G should mean more consumers will be able to enjoy a good mobile Video Experience more often because of the increased mobile capacity new high frequency 5G spectrum will provide to mobile operators.

You can download the complete OpenSignal (free) report here.

 

 

 

OpenSignal: Cellular networks getting faster than Wi-Fi; but not in U.S.

According to a new report by OpenSignal, cellular network speeds have gotten faster and often greater than average Wi-Fi speeds.  In 33 countries, smartphone users now experience faster average download speeds using a mobile (cellular) network than using Wi-Fi.  The upshot is that cellular networks (some type of LTE) are no longer inferior to Wi-Fi in every country and the mobile industry must change a number of design decisions as a result.

Australia smartphone users experienced the biggest advantage with average download speeds 13 Mbps faster on mobile networks than on Wi-Fi.  The mobile network advantage for a few other countries:  France (+2.5 Mbps); Qatar (+11.8 Mbps); Turkey (+7.3 Mbps); Mexico (+1.5 Mbps) and South Africa (+5.7 Mbps).

In sharp contrast to the above, U.S. Wi-Fi is still 25Mbps faster than mobile networks on average.  Same is true for Hong Kong, South Korea, and Singapore.

Hong Kong’s mobile networks deliver average speeds that are 38.6Mbps lower than that experienced over Wi-Fi.  Hong Kong’s mobile users experience an average speed over Wi-Fi of nearly 55Mbps, compared to just 15Mbps for its mobile network.

In China by contrast, average Wi-Fi speeds were recorded at 23.9Mbps, compared to overall mobile download speeds of 13.8Mbps.

Of the Asia-Pacific countries studied, only Japan, South Korea and Singapore recorded faster Wi-Fi compared to mobile speeds, and the difference between the two was a lot closer in each market.  South Korea recorded the fastest average mobile speeds of around 45Mbps, compared to 56Mbps for Wi-Fi, while Singapore had the fastest Wi-Fi speeds of 73Mbps, compared to around 39Mbps over Wi-Fi.

OpenSignal states that telecom operators in markets where there is little difference between mobile and Wi-Fi speeds are using fixed wireless networks effectively to support their cellular networks.  They also experience greater mobile network consumption as consumers in the market have little incentive to switch networks.

With 5G coming in various flavors, cellular networking speeds are bound to get faster and better. However the next generation of Wi-Fi – IEEE 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 is designed for cellular data offloading to a fixed broadband wireless network.  Hence, both technologies are meant to be complementary.

Another interesting observation from the study is a mobile device’s tendency to favor Wi-Fi over cellular, even if the Wi-Fi connection is not as good (that’s my experience with a Samsung smart phone). With the exception of smart phones made by Huawei, most cellular devices will automatically switch from cellular networks to Wi-Fi without performing a speed test. Huawei phones will switch from a slow Wi-Fi link to a faster cellular connection where appropriate.  We think the entire mobile phone industry should do this type of speed test and wireless network switching in both directions (Wi-Fi to cellular and cellular to Wi-Fi).

 

References:

https://opensignal.com/reports-data/global/data-2018-11/state_of_wifi_vs_mobile_OpenSignal_201811.pdf

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/11/23/mobile_v_wifi_speed_report/

https://www.techspot.com/news/77559-opensignal-mobile-networks-getting-faster-than-wi-fi.html

https://www.cw.com.hk/it-hk/hong-kong-mobile-networks-significantly-slower-than-wi-fi

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