WinWin Issue 42
Chief Industry Analyst, Ookla
5G Driving Network Performance & Consumer Experience to New Highs
Ookla provides industry-leading, trusted network intelligence and testing solutions that help connect consumers and the industry. We are driven by the mission to measure, understand, and help improve connected experiences across the world. With the help of our innovative testing tools, we help consumers understand what connectivity means and how it’s evolving with 5G. Apart from the renowned Speedtest? and Downdetector? platforms, Ookla provides a growing suite of end-to-end solutions to enterprises, helping them leverage data to gain insights across their networks and of the experience of their customers. Worldwide, operators, regulatory bodies, businesses, government agencies, non-profits, research organizations and many others use the insights provided by Ookla to analyze, optimize, and publicize networks around the world. Currently, we are adding new capabilities to our enterprise tools to help measure customer experience across areas like video streaming, video calling, social networking, and gaming.
5G delivering on the promise
As operators across the world ramp up 5G investments and launch innovative new services for consumers and enterprises, network performance remains a critical factor in deciding the success of these investments. A July 2022 survey conducted by Ookla to evaluate the expectations of smartphone users, just prior to 5G launch, resonates with this sentiment. According to the survey, 42% of smartphone users surveyed believe faster connection speeds would improve the mobile experience delivered to them, while 24% mark reliability as the primary concern that impacts their experience. Indoor coverage is another crucial factor to consider as 21% mark that as their priority while outdoor coverage was the primary concern for 10% of the consumers. There’s one more factor, the latency, which can emerge as a primary concern as users gain more understanding about 5G applications and how latency can impact their experience.
However, the good news is that with 5G, operators have already been delivering on the promise of faster speeds. In one of our analyses, where we monitored 5G network performance at various major events, we see that operators continue to push the envelope on speed and performance of their networks. Two major recent events that we covered, the Expo 2020, Dubai, and NFL Football, Los Angeles 2022, had achieved 983 Mbps and 874 Mbps as median downlink speeds respectively. In terms of the uplink speed, Expo 2020 and MWC 2020 scored higher with 103 Mbps and 81 Mbps median downlink speeds respectively. We have seen similar trends with other major events across the U.S., in London, Tokyo, Paris, and more. This upward trend will continue, as we move towards more standalone 5G networks and to 5G Advanced, and also embrace the new era of 5G with the latest releases of 3GPP standards that enable more efficient usage of higher frequency spectrum. We await some major announcements in this regard in the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC) 2023 at Dubai.
What’s more significant about 5G is that, it can enhance the user experience across a wide range of user applications, and this in turn can lead to increased network usage and thus increased ARPU for operators. Take, for example, the impact of 5G on the video experience across different regions as they transition from 4G to 5G. During our analysis of video samples across regions, we have found that the median time to start video has come down drastically, and at the same time, a greater proportion of video samples are viewed at higher resolution. As in the case of video, 5G brings significant improvement in gaming experience as well. This indicates the drastic improvement in latency as we move from 4G to 5G. Again, the use cases in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines have topped the chart in latency reduction, gaining nearly 20ms improvement with 5G. These instances show 5G improves the overall experience across demanding applications. We also see significant improvement in customer engagement while moving from 4G to 5G. When we analyze consumer NPS scores, we see time and time again that users on 5G networks are much more likely to be net promoters than those on 4G networks.
In this context, the next focus for the industry is to improve the capabilities of 5G and scale it further. According to Ookla data, the vast majority of users still spend a majority of their time connected to 4G networks. Only 10-30% percent of Speedtest users in markets in Asia Pacific that have launched 5G spend a majority of their time on 5G networks. Thus it’s time for the industry to scale up 5G coverage. With the availability of sufficient mid-band spectrum, and industry initiatives to promote re-farming and re-allocation of sub-GHz spectrum, the scenario will improve further. 5G adoption is also impacted by the availability of devices. Having affordable 5G devices and tariff plans can really catalyse 5G adoption. Finally, in order to spread the benefits of 5G to the mass market, we need to continue to create more and more innovative use cases, and build awareness about them.