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The 5G opportunity: How 5G will solve the congestion problems of today's 4G networks

Across 77 countries studied by Opensignal, 4G download speeds are between 31.2 Mbps and 5.8 Mbps faster at the best hour of day compared with the slowest hour of the day. Congestion on current 4G networks is holding back speeds highlighting the need for new 5G capacity to relieve pressure. Across the day, 42% of countries experienced speed variation of two times or more. In the U.S., the best 4G download speeds were 1.9 times faster in the late hours of night — when most users are offline — than during the day and evening leisure hours. India’s best 4G download speed was 3.9 times faster than the speed experienced at the slowest time of day. 5G will add new capacities to help with these wide time-of-day speed variations. 5G won’t just deliver faster speeds, it will provide a blanket of capacity, built using new high-bandwidth, high-frequency spectrum bands that will help mitigate the daily cycle of congestion we see on today’s 4G networks. These 5G services will support more simultaneous users at very fast speeds. Even the fastest 4G countries need 5G to counter big drops in speeds at busy times. In the fastest two countries in Opensignal’s analysis, South Korea and Singapore, users experienced a speed gap of 13 Mbps between fastest and slowest hours, despite the two highest average 4G download speeds measured of 55.7 Mbps and 54.7 Mbps respectively.

The slowest time of day tends to be in the evening, but varies between countries. While most countries experience the slowest speeds in the evening, between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., there are notable exceptions. For smartphone users in Singapore and Norway speeds slowed much earlier at 6 p.m., and in the U.K. and the Netherlands the peak periods were even earlier, 5 p.m. and 4 p.m. respectively, overlapping the working day. Cities see the greatest speed swings. Users in Paris experienced the greatest range of 4G download speeds, fluctuating between 21.5 Mbps and 51.4 Mbps in a 24-hour period, followed by Sydney and Santiago. Worryingly, New York’s fastest hour for 4G speed of 40.8 Mbps was in a virtual dead heat with the 40.6 Mbps Seoul’s inhabitants experience at their slowest hour of the day. But Seoul’s slowest hour of day is still faster than the fastest hour of day in Taipei (38.2 Mbps), London (38.3 Mbps) and 21 other cities analyzed.

Tremendous speed volatility is untenable for future mobile applications. To launch all the most demanding new applications, such as augmented reality or autonomous driving, operators and app developers must be able to break free from today’s limitations where they are forced to create services and apps for the worst-case congestion conditions. The world needs new 5G networks to offer increased capacity, and more consistent speeds to sustain new innovations.
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