Singaporeans have become accustomed to spending more time indoors and at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly in the first half of 2020. The city-state’s strategy of living with the virus and relying on high vaccination rates means that mobile connectivity will become more important in the months to come.
Singapore’s 5G networks went live in the second half of 2020 after the pandemic had begun. Singaporeans are yet to fully experience 5G because since 5G’s launch they have been spending more time at home where WiFi is usually available. Across the city, there are often public WiFi services available to smartphone users such as the free Wireless@SGx service. But Opensignal’s new analysis shows that smartphone users saw nearly 50% faster speeds on 5G than on WiFi. Additionally, using 5G cellular users saw a comparable performance when playing multiplayer mobile games to WiFi, and significantly better than with 4G or 3G.
Our users saw average speeds of 179.6 Mbps when connected to 5G — 58.8 Mbps (48.6%) faster than the 120.9 Mbps recorded when users were connected to WiFi. In comparison, Singaporean users saw average 4G speeds of 52.1 Mbps and average 3G speeds of 11.1 Mbps.
These results show the impact that 5G is already having on the Singaporean mobile network experience. However, Singapore’s 5G speeds are relatively modest by international standards as seen by the fact that the city-state did not place in the top 15 markets for 5G Download Speed in our Benchmarking the Global 5G Experience — November 2021 analysis. A significant factor here is the fact that Singapore’s operators have to roll out 5G with a limited amount of 3.5 GHz spectrum as nearby countries use this band for direct to home satellite TV services. With the city-state hosting the inaugural Global Esports Games, we’ve also taken the opportunity to analyze the experience of our smartphone users when playing mobile real-time multiplayer games — Games Experience — across mobile network generations and compared it with the gaming experience using Wifi.
Our users saw no statistically significant difference in their Games Experience when on WiFi or when connected to 5G, with scores of 88.7 and 88.3 points on a 100 point scale, respectively. It is worth noting that it has only been a few months since users of all three of Singapore’s long-established operators have been able to access 5G standalone (SA) networks, which have the potential to reduce latency and make the mobile experience feel more responsive.
With both 5G and WiFi, our users’ typical experience when playing multiplayer mobile games on smartphones was Excellent (85 or above). This means that the vast majority of users deemed their network experience to have been acceptable. Nearly all respondents felt like they had control over the game and they received immediate feedback on their actions. There was not a noticeable delay in almost all cases. In contrast, our Singaporean users had a Good (75<85) 4G Games Experience and a Poor (40<65) 3G Games Experience, with scores of 81.3 and 63.4 points, respectively.
Opensignal’s Games Experience measures how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on an operator’s network. Measured on a scale of 0-100, it analyzes how the multiplayer mobile gaming experience is affected by mobile network conditions including latency, packet loss and jitter to determine the impact on gameplay and the overall experience.
5G transforms the cellular experience and makes it competitive with WiFi
This new Opensignal analysis shows the arrival of 5G means that cellular connections are no longer always inferior to WiFi. Average 5G download speeds are faster than WiFi and 5G gaming is on par with that on WiFi. That said, WiFi will continue to have an important role — especially when backing up files and downloading large apps due to the low cost of data it provides compared to many mobile plans. Also, 5G services need to expand considerably as our Singaporean 5G users spent only 9.7% of their time connected to 5G in the 90 days ending on 29 October.
Both 5G and WiFi are evolving: 5G with the introduction of standalone access (SA) and the improvements coming in future 3GPP releases; WiFi with the growing adoption of WiFi 6 (802.11ax) and the announcement of more support for latency-sensitive applications. Improvements in WiFi standards will be felt more quickly by users in Singapore than in many countries because fibre-based home broadband is already widespread. This means that smartphone users can look forward to seeing further improvements to their experience in the near future.
Related article: How will Singapore’s 5G rollout affect users’ experience?