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Opensignal – Avg. UK 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds Hit 138Mbps

Thursday, May 7th, 2020 (9:55 am) - Score 3,362
5G fast network logo. Speed internet 5g concept. wifi bars symbol of speed 5g network

Crowd-sourced analyst firm Opensignal has today released some updated benchmarks of early 5G based mobile broadband network deployments across several countries, which shows that average download speeds in the UK have reached 138Mbps – way above 4G on 24.9Mbps and WiFi on 34.1Mbps. But other countries are faster.

As usual there are some caveats to this sort of information. For example, app-based crowd-sourced data could be impacted by any limitations of the devices being used, which at the same time removes the ability to adopt a common type of hardware in order to establish a solid baseline of performance. Nevertheless Opensignal are one of the better outfits at putting such data together.

Furthermore we have to highlight the context of current deployments. Firstly, none of the early 5G networks have many real-world customers (i.e. low network congestion – not very reflective of eventual take-up) and the initial hardware being deployed doesn’t always support all of its claimed capabilities (this varies between operators and counties).

One other big factor below is that, in the UK at least, most operators currently only have access to a smaller 40-50MHz slice of the 3.4GHz radio spectrum band, which is a hugely limiting factor for 5G speeds. Ofcom were due to auction off more of this but they’ve had to delay that process due to COVID-19 and we no longer know when it will take place (likely to occur later this year).

In short, it’s currently quite tricky to compare 5G performance between countries without also understanding what bands have been made available, as well as the coverage aspects of each market. Nevertheless few will be surprised to find that 5G is clearly faster, even without access to lots of spectrum, than 4G and WiFi combined.. except in the USA.

NOTE: It’s not clear what kind of WiFi is being compared below (e.g. premium public hotspots, free hotpots, home networks or all three combined?).

opensignal 5g broadband speeds and adoption uk may 2020

Opensignal claims that WiFi is faster in the USA because a lot of mobile operators have so far only deployed 5G using low frequency bands, which don’t have enough spare frequency to deliver good performance. In fairness the maximum speeds (not shown above) in the USA are actually significantly faster than this because they have deployed higher frequency mmW bands too, but those are only useful for short range coverage (e.g. busy shopping areas) or fixed wireless links.

Sadly looking at average speeds tells us only part of the story. It’s equally important to understand how often a user will enjoy that faster 5G service. “When we compared the time 5G users connect to 5G — we call this 5G Availability — we found it varied between 34.9% of time in Kuwait down to 5.2% in the UK,” said Opensignal. This is hardly surprising since the new networks have only just begun to roll-out and have very limited coverage. Likewise most consumers do not yet own a 5G capable Smartphone or router device.

Sadly the analyst misses an opportunity here to include some data about upload speeds and latency times.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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20 Responses
  1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Call me out if I’m wrong, but all the other countries have a far wider spectrum than the UK. It don’t help when OFCOM try to capitalise by chopping the auctions down to piddly little chunks either. If we want to be the best we need to open up more spectrum and sell it far cheaper rather than allowing the government to make it a money generation machine akin to police speed cameras.

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      The larger a government becomes, the greater amount of wealth it destroys.

  2. Avatar RaptorX says:

    That’s nothing special. I’ve had well over 200Mbps on 4G with a good signal on EE. No doubt 5G will get a lot faster than this in the future.

    1. Avatar DanielM says:

      Same I’ve had almost 305Mbps at Lancaster uni. With my a90 5g on lte-a

    2. Avatar Tracey Lyle says:

      Did you know that EE is the broadband side of BT.

  3. Avatar Name says:

    A year ago in London I have had about 170Mbps on 4G (Vodafone) on my old Xperia.

  4. Avatar Danny says:

    I have averaged around 600mbps on 3 network on my note 10 5g in Leeds?

    1. Avatar My name is Jeff says:

      Don’t tell fibs.

    2. Avatar Michael V says:

      Thanks Danny, I have an idea what to expect when I upgrade to a 5G phone later in year. Three have 5G in some places in Cardiff.
      There’s been some reports of crazy fast speeds from their new network.

    3. Avatar Danny says:

      My name jeff: I can provide screenshot of my speed tests…

      Micheal V: yeah no problem fastest I’ve had is 764 mbps 🙂

    4. Avatar Mike says:

      Usually in early hours of morning you can get very high speeds when less people are on, some have seen around 1Gbps.

      I’ve had similar experiences with nearby 4G masts (getting very high speeds compared to peak/day time).

    5. Avatar Ash says:

      Why would he be telling fibs? 3 have 100 hertz of continuous spectrum, perfectly conceivable that he could get 600 mbps

  5. Avatar Dom says:

    I live in central London and 4G from EE my average speed is about 140Mbps…

    We got 5G broadband from three for the promise of “400Mbps average”…. Never seen above 200… Average is usually below 100Mpbs. What’s the point in 5G if it’s so slow?

    1. Avatar joe says:

      Lots of reason yu may be below speed thats not the fault of 5g tech

    2. Avatar Tracey Lyle says:

      The closer you live next to an exchange and a green box the better. The speeds are ” you COULD get that at certain times”

  6. Avatar Aleksandr Metslov says:

    Sorry, guys, but I’m laughing my ass off.
    Speeds will be always small and no xG will change it. UK need to provide proper backbone for at least decent speeds, which, add I clearly see, nobody is interested in, since it involves actually buying more speeds from ISPs and maybe even changing “telephone” lines to fiber optic cable to the mast itself.
    Much cheaper is just advertise that next gen will bring you 100x faster speeds without changing infrastructure, and then tell that is users themselves fault they don’t have those speeds.
    I’m stuck of UK marketing bullshit.

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      You really have no idea what you’re talking about, UK ‘backbone’ is pretty good, but whatever makes you happy.

    2. Avatar Pezza says:

      Erm? Open Reach does provide fibre to the masts? 5G I don’t think will work without that..

    3. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Aleksandr.
      Vodafone has C&W and cityfibre backhaul for their LTE & NR Networks.
      Three has Virgin and SSE.

      Speeds may not be at 1gbps yet on 5G-NR, but it’s a new technology in it’s first stages.

  7. Avatar David Smith says:

    I live in Grantham town.
    The current by network is only capable of 1-3Mbs.
    Thus we have to go for virgin @ around £55 a month.
    Are there any other options or a way to get by to improve there network to get a reasonable priced provider.
    Virgin only provide reasonable prices to new customers.

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