U.S. Users Clock Highest 5G Speeds at 1.8 Gbps, but Lowest Reach with Just 1% of Connections on 5G

Opensignal, the independent global standard for measuring real-world mobile network experience, today presented its latest analysis on the global 5G experience at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles. The analysis compares early 5G network adoption from first-mover nations like South Korea, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Australia and the U.K. with the United States.  Key findings show that Opensignal U.S. mobile users with 5G-equipped devices enjoy the fastest 5G speeds in the world but are spending the least amount of time actually connected to 5G.  Whether this is a symptom of the 5G rollout being in its early stages or due to unique 5G spectrum challenges in the U.S. remains a key question.

5G Delivers on Speed Promise

Opensignal analyzed the maximum speeds that U.S. 5G smartphone users experienced over a   6-month period.  Results show 5G speeds are evolving quickly.  The U.S. tops the chart with maximum 5G download speeds of 1.8 Gbps, delivering on the promise of mmWave technology.  However, Australia, Switzerland and South Korea all logged download speeds over 1 Gigabit per second, showing that mid-band 5G technologies can deliver as well.

But 5G Users Spend Vast Majority of Time on 4G

While U.S. 5G mobile users have speed, they lack network reach. Opensignal found users with 5G smartphones in the U.S. only achieved 5G connection on 1% of attempts. By contrast, in South Korea, which has 3 million 5G users already signed up, 20% of attempts were on 5G.

The U.S. has a relatively higher reliance on mmWave spectrum (which offers more limited coverage and reach) than the rest of the world who tended to utilize mid-band spectrum for early 5G rollouts. These new findings highlight some of the spectrum challenges faced in the U.S. where 5G mid-band spectrum has been relatively harder to come by compared with other countries.

“Our latest Opensignal analysis helps spotlight some key questions the industry is facing when it comes to 5G – namely, how do you market a service like 5G that is only available a fraction of the time, at least initially.  And as 5G comes in different ‘flavors’ depending on the spectrum used, each with its own set of benefits and challenges, how do you tackle the unique set of hurdles that mmWave will need to overcome,” said Brendan Gill, CEO of Opensignal.  “The early focus has clearly been on speed, especially in the USA, but the conversation needs to evolve quickly to focus on making sure 5G is really here, not just barely here.”

Gill is presenting Opensignal’s 5G analysis today at the “Marketing 5G: First or Best to Market?” panel at Mobile World Congress.  He will kick-off a discussion examining the history of first mover advantage in mobile network technology, its role for the fifth generation of wireless communication, where “best to market” fits in and what that really means in terms of benefits for consumers and enterprise users. He will be joined on stage by fellow telecom and mobile connectivity leaders Juan Carlos Garcia, SVP Network & Technology, Telefonica; Sandro Tavares, head of Mobile Networks Marketing, Nokia; Damiano Coletti, VP of Marketing, Airspan; Dr. Derek Peterson, CTO, Boingo Wireless; and Chris Nicoll, Principal Analyst, Mobility & Wireless Networks, ACG Research.