Comprehensive new report highlights the pretty terrible state of US 5G networks
We were warned well in advance of the world's first 5G rollouts not to expect the game-changing wireless technology to, well, instantly change the game in terms of widespread download speeds, but obviously, some progress was made over the last year or so pretty much everywhere around the globe.
Because not all 5G mobile networks are created equal and many countries haven't even started the transition from 4G LTE, you shouldn't be surprised to find out there are major geographical differences to report as far as everything from raw speeds to video experience and the availability of the "outdated" aforementioned cellular standard is concerned.
While it's clearly not easy to collect enough data to get a full and accurate picture of the way everyday smartphone users regularly connect to 4G LTE and 5G networks worldwide, especially during a pandemic, OpenSignal impressively managed to perform more than 87 billion measurements (3G tests included) on over 43 million devices between January 1 and March 30, 2020.
After comparing all that information with similar data gathered in the first three months of last year, the mobile analytics company released an in-depth report full of interesting findings and detailed examinations of regional differences. Here are just a few of the conclusions that captured our attention:
5G download speeds are rising... slowly
While all 20 "leading" 5G countries assessed by OpenSignal for its latest report saw their download speed "experience" index grow between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020, said growth was far from impressive in places like Kuwait, Romania, the UK, Spain, and... the US.
Due to T-Mobile's initial nationwide focus on low-band 5G technology, which is barely faster than 4G LTE across many areas, and the modest footprint covered by Verizon's blazing fast mmWave 5G network, it's hardly surprising to see the US ranked below Germany, Sweden, Finland, Qatar, UAE, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Norway, Japan, and South Korea in this key metric.
Believe it or not, US users are getting less than half the average 5G download speeds of their South Korea-based counterparts, although for what it's worth, the 26.7 Mbps score is 25 percent higher than the regional speed result from the same period last year.
The video experience is even crappier stateside
If you thought ranking 12th out of the aforementioned 20 leading 5G countries for download speed experience was bad, wait until you see where the US is positioned in OpenSignal's latest video experience chart. With 56 points (on a scale to 100), the "land of the free" managed to edge out Puerto Rico and finish the global competition second to last.
Although the 56 score does technically put the US in the "Good" category, 5G users in seven countries enjoyed an "excellent" average mobile video experience during the first quarter of 2020, while another 11 countries earned a "very good" rating.
Adding other countries into the equation paints an even more embarrassing picture for the US wireless industry, as the nation sits in the 73rd spot of the overall top 100 chart for mobile video experience, making far too little year-on-year progress to raise any hopes for a short-term future improvement.
If you want great overall download speeds, go north
Canada doesn't need widespread 5G connectivity to rule the general download speed hierarchy, incredibly jumping from 42.5 to 59.6 Mbps in the space of 12 months and totally crushing the 26.7 Mbps US score, which saw a modest surge from 21.3 Mbps a year ago.
If it makes you feel any better, the US did manage to defeat two G7 countries (Italy and the UK) in download speeds while ranking dead last in the group as far as the video experience is concerned. Overall, the US sits in the 25th spot out of 100 countries in the download speed experience chart, which is a little better than the nation's abysmal video performance.
On the other hand, the US continues to shine when it comes to 4G availability (which is not the same as coverage, mind you), with a remarkable 96.1 percent score that's only surpassed by Japan and South Korea. At least in theory, that should allow the nation's largest wireless service providers to deploy a 5G signal faster than carriers in many other countries. Unfortunately, that's not enough to also guarantee remarkable nationwide speeds... yet.