Opensignal published its latest 5G user experience report, providing some real world insight into what 5G really delivers in the field. Opensignal reports significant 5G progress, but the numbers do put the 5G hype cycle into perspective.
National mobile carriers have been falling over themselves to promote 5G and its capabilities, suggesting a 5G user experience that will far outpace anything that’s come before it. Talk of gigabit speeds is not unusual.
So it is a bit sobering to see real world 5G user experience data, like what comes from the January 2021 Opensignal 5G User Experience report. 5G mobile users are far more likely to experience speeds in the 50 Mbps range, than anything close to gigabit.
Opensignal rates the 5G user experience for each of the three U.S. national mobile carriers, using data from millions of devices deployed in the field. Of the three carriers, T-Mobile comes out on top for many of the measured categories. AT&T didn’t win a single category.
For 5G download speed, T-Mobile won the category, with an average speed of 58.1 Mbps, followed by AT&T (53.8) and Verizon (47.4). Verizon does provide much faster speeds for 5G with it’s 5G Ultra-Wideband service, which uses mmWave spectrum, but its availability is very limited.
Most Verizon customers experience 5G on its network that utilizes DSS, sharing spectrum for both a 4G and 5G user experience. It provides much broader coverage, but the user experience is hard to distinguish between 4G and 5G.
T-Mobile took the upload speed category as well, registering an average upload speed of 14 Mbps. Verizon came in second (11.9), followed by AT&T (8).
T-Mobile wasted no time congratulating itself.
“From the word ‘go’, we’ve been the leader in 5G coverage, and now we’re piling on the speed with Ultra Capacity 5G – first in 5G coverage, now first in 5G speed,” said Neville Ray, President of Technology at T-Mobile in a press release. “Last year we blanketed the country in 5G, and now we’re layering on the capacity and speed. We closed out 2020 with over 100 million people covered with our Ultra Capacity 5G and we will extend this deployment nationwide by the end of 2021.
5G Mobile Video
The bright spot for Verizon, from a 5G user experience perspective, is with video. According to Opensignal, Verizon dominates the 5G mobile video experience, scoring 64.9 on Opensignal’s 100-point scale. AT&T followed with a score of 62.5, and T-Mobile trailed with a score of 57.8.
One of the more telling data points for today’s 5G user experience is 5G availability. Opensignal reports on the actual percentage of time users spend connected to a 5G network. The higher the percentage, the more available 5G coverage.
T-Mobile takes this crown too, with T-Mobile users connected to 5G almost one third of the time, or 30.1%. AT&T follows, with 18.8%. Verizon brings up the rear, with only 9.5%. T-Mobile also took the availability crown in every state tested by Opensignal.
There is progress with availability. Opensignal cites a “[r]evolution in 5G Availability in just six months.” For example, Verizon’s relatively small availability score of 9.5% is up dramatically, from .4% in the last Opensignal report. This is directly attributable to Verizon’s adoption of DSS for 5G, Opensignal reports.