How 5G will solve congestion problems in today’s 4G networks

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Opensignal mobile analytics company, has published its first report about “How 5G will solve the congestion problems of today’s 4G networks” and the conclusions are quite interesting, particularly the broad range of network speeds being experienced in the Asia region.

Today’s 4G networks suffer from huge fluctuations in speed throughout the course of day. Depending on the country, the 4G Download Speed a user experiences at one hour could be as much as 30 Mbps faster than speed experience just a few hours later. Those huge inconsistencies are due to congestion. During the busiest times of day networks are packed with connections, each vying for a finite amount of capacity. That causes speeds to drop — often dramatically — below the network’s average. 5G will help iron out these hourly peaks and valleys, as it will provide a solid bedrock of capacity that will relieve congestion during the busiest hours. 

These fluctuations in speeds will become increasingly problematic as the global mobile industry evolves. Next generation services and apps that require not just fast, but consistent speeds. Otherwise they won’t be able to function adequately at the precise times most consumers want to use them. While the attention on 5G centres on boosted speeds, it’s benefits to consistency could be far more important. 

While some countries offered much more consistency in speed than others, EVERY country had some degree of speed fluctuation throughout the day. The most consistent of the 77 countries in our analysis were a diverse list, including several established 4G powerhouses in Asia and Europe. While countries with highly developed 4G markets tend to be more consistent than others, powerful 4G networks don’t always equate more consistent connections. 

These big fluctuations in 4G Download Speeds are most likely caused by congestion on the network as the slowest speeds always occur when demand for mobile data is the highest. The issue is exacerbated in urban areas. It’s clear that wild swings in speed are even more common at a city level than they are nationally. 

Asia Pacific is the region showing the greatest differences in download experience in our report, with most countries either positioning at the top or bottom of our speed consistency measures. Users experience average speeds beyond 40 Mbps in South Korea (47.1 Mbps) and Singapore (45.4 Mbps), while struggle to even reach double digits in India (6.5 Mbps), Thailand (8.2 Mbps), Indonesia (8.6 Mbps), Cambodia (8.6 Mbps) and Philippines (9.4 Mbps). 

The region hosts some of the countries with the highest speed fluctuations throughout the day like Taiwan (19.5 Mbps) and Cambodia (19.4 Mbps). However, users in Taiwan experience average 4G Download Speed almost 20 Mbps faster than their peers in Cambodia, where at the quietest hour download speed rises more than six times compared to the busiest hour.

Six out of ten countries where users experience slowest speeds at the busiest hour of the day are in the Asia Pacific region, but the bottom place is filled by Algeria. When the network is most congested, users in Malaysia experience just 9 Mbps in 4G Download Speed, ahead of Philippines (6.9 Mbps), Thailand (6 Mbps), Indonesia (5.7 Mbps), Cambodia (3.7 Mbps) and India (3.7 Mbps). Taiwan, on the other hand, hit the records as the country in the world with the largest decrease in speed at the busiest time, where slowest speed is 9.3 Mbps lower than the average speed

At the quietest time of day, South Korea, Singapore and Australia all have networks capable of delivering more than 50 Mbps in 4G Download Speed, but while Singapore and South Korea consistently deliver speeds faster than 40 Mbps at all times, users in Australia experience just 31.5 Mbps at the busiest time. So, while all three countries clearly have very powerful networks, South Korea and Singapore have an edge on Australia in consistency. 

The busiest time of day — when speeds were slowest — varied from country to country. For most countries, that peak-consumption time was in the evening between 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., but there were some notable exceptions. In Japan for example, it was in the noon; Singapore 6.00 p.m and Malaysia at 10:00 p.m. See Chart 5 in the report.

Cities often have the latest 4G technologies deployed and so should deliver the fastest speeds. During the day and evening, speeds drop dramatically, highlighting the failure of current 4G networks to deliver a consistent experience. We saw much bigger hourly fluctuations in download speed in big global cities than in their respective counties. See Chart 6 in the report.

The report can be downloaded here.

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