Singapore telcos have been steadily undergoing 5G strategy resets and materializing plans for the deployment of 5G infrastructure, pushing 5G services to become more tangible for consumer use. Recently, Singtel deployed hundreds of 5G Standalone (SA) sites across the island, while Starhub solidified its 5G SIM plans for customers. Since the start of the 5G wave in Singapore, how is it matching up with the Asia Pacific markets so far?
According to Opensignal’s recent June 2021 report on “Benchmarking the 5G Experience – Asia Pacific”, Singapore is steadily catching up, ranking in the middle of the Asia Pacific (APAC) markets for 5G services that launched recently in late 2020. Countries that have been evaluated in this rendition include the likes of South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong, with Singapore ranked among its APAC counterparts. Opensignal has scored the APAC players with data collected from 1 March – 29 May 2021.
The 5G mobile experience continues to change as more smartphone users embrace 5G and operators expand their 5G networks. The APAC region has some of the highest quality 5G experiences that Opensignal users have seen to date. However, there are large differences between markets, depending on how long 5G has been available and the type of wireless spectrum that operators have been able to use for 5G.
South Korea and Taiwan are vying for the fastest 5G experience in Opensignal’s latest analysis. While South Koreans have the fastest average 5G Download Speed of 380.5 Mbps, Opensignal users see the fastest 5G Peak Download Speed (847.3 Mbps) and average 5G Upload Speed (51.8 Mbps) in Taiwan, with South Korea just behind.
Singapore already ranks in the middle of APAC markets for 5G Download Speed 5G services launched relatively recently in the second half of 2020. This is especially interesting for Singapore because operators there have more limited amounts of mid-band 5G spectrum available than operators in many other markets. This is due to spectrum harmonization issues unique for Singapore — neighbouring countries use the 3.5 GHz band for direct to home satellite TV services — and deploying mobile services in this band would cause interference.
Many smartphone users embrace 5G to improve their experience with mobile applications. When we compare the 5G-powered video, multiplayer gaming and experience of chatting over popular voice apps, we see a very different set of results to the 5G speed comparisons above.
For example, Singapore ranks second for 5G Games Experience, just behind gaming-obsessed South Korea. Thailand moves up four places higher for 5G Video Experience than its ranking for 5G Download Speed, and similarly, Hong Kong moves into third place. By contrast, the immature 5G experience in Japan, means it drops down the table.
Also, all the APAC markets Opensignal analyzed enjoyed an Excellent 5G Video Experience (75 or above). For 5G Games Experience, two markets — South Korea and Singapore — rated as Excellent, and users in a further four had a Good 5G Games Experience (75<85). The difference between the two metrics highlights the importance of deploying new versions of 5G including standalone access (SA) which aim to improve the latency and responsiveness of the mobile experience.
All the APAC markets see a much faster average download speed using 5G compared with older 4G network technology. The difference ranges from an astonishing 10.4 times in the Philippines and Taiwan, to 2.9 times faster in Singapore.
And remember, this is comparing early versions of 5G technology with the latest iteration of 4G, which follows over 10 years of gradual improvements in 4G technology since the launch of the first 4G networks back in 2009/10. Over the next decade, 5G will improve, and the 5G mobile experience will widen the gap with the previous mobile generation, especially as operators deploy mmWave 5G more widely in the region. For 5G Video Experience, we’ve seen a more modest improvement. In four APAC markets, the 5G Video Experience is over 10% better than 4G Video Experience, in a further two markets it improved by over 5%. In both the download speed and video experience uplifts, smartphone users in the Philippines have seen the greatest improvement in experience using 5G.
Opensignal has compared the extent of the 5G on two measures: the share of time on which 5G users spend connected to a 5G service (5G Availability) and the share of locations in which 5G users have experienced a 5G connection (5G Reach). Unsurprisingly, given it is a compact city, Hong Kong tops both charts. More impressively, Opensignal users in South Korea spend a statistically identical amount of time connected to 5G as do Hong Kongers. Smartphone users see 5G in a similar share of locations in South Korea, scoring a 5.8 out of 10 for 5G Reach compared with 6.2 in Hong Kong.
Japan’s low scores for 5G Availability and 5G Reach highlight the relative immaturity of the 5G experience in Japan and help to explain Japan’s scores for 5G Video Experience, 5G Games Experience and 5G Voice App Experience. While three of Japan’s operators launched 5G in Spring 2020 and the fourth that autumn, the coverage has been limited to date.
However, all of Japan’s operators are focused on greatly expanding the extent of 5G in the 18 month period starting in the first quarter of 2021 (see au/KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank and Rakuten) but it is too early to see the results of these moves. Given the much larger geographic area of the markets, both the Philippines and Australia have impressive results. Opensignal 5G users in both markets spend 10% of their time connected to 5G, and experience 5G in almost one-third of locations, with 5G Reach scores of 3.0 and 2.9 respectively.
Operators in other APAC countries have also launched 5G, including in New Zealand and Indonesia. Opensignal will continue to analyze the evolution of all 5G markets and more markets will be included in future 5G insights.
Contributed by Ian Fogg, Head of the Analysis Team at Opensignal