Meanwhile Australia’s maximum 5G downloads were measured at 792 Mbps, putting it fourth on the list of eight countries for 5G speed.
Maximum speed tests allow Opensignal to compare the real-world capabilities of mobile broadband networks around the world, but do not consider average speeds due to congestion and other issues.
In day to day use, Sydneysiders see less than 5 per cent of these maximum speeds. They enjoy average mobile download speeds of only 39.8 Mbps, and 8.9 Mbps up, compared to 56.3/16.6 Mbps in the South Korean capital of Seoul, according to Opensignal research.
If the real-world experience of 5G is not significantly faster than current 4G services then operators will find it hard to charge more for 5G, justify further network investments or explain the benefits of 5G to acquire new customers, an Opensignal report warns.
Meanwhile Telstra’s own data shows that speeds are faster on 5G, according to a Telstra spokesperson. The telco’s 5G coverage, speed and performance continue to be optimised and have already improved since launch in May.
“While app-based surveys like OpenSignal can measure certain factors such as speed, this is only one aspect of what forms the experience that many customers actually value,” the Testra spokesperson says.
“They are less well suited to measure true breadth and consistency of coverage, customer perceived video and browsing experience, and customer experience in regional and remote regions where their sample size is even more thinly stretched.”
Australia’s maximum real-world 4G and 5G speeds both outgun half the global leaderboard, with 4G speeds almost matching the 5G speeds of South Korea. The speed tests were conducted between April and June this year.
“What we have seen in Australia is one 4G speed test in the real world that is much, much closer to the 4G theoretical maximum speed than we have seen in the other countries,” says Opensignal vice president of analysis Ian Fogg. “This is most likely due to the quality of the 4G experience in Australia and the large 4G spectrum holdings held by some operators.
“In South Korea, the maximum speed we’d seen when we wrote the recent 5G Insight on Korea was 988 Mbps, but we’ve now seen a test at 1071 Mbps. We expect the 5G maximum speed seen in Australia to improve over time similarly.”
The USA tops the 5G real-world maximum download leaderboard at 1815 Mbps, well ahead of Switzerland on 1145 Mbps and South Korea on 1071 Mbps.
The USA’s impressive lead is due to the fact that network operators there have access to 26GHz “millimetre wave” spectrum for 5G. While delivering fast speeds and high capacity, this spectrum has very limited coverage compared with the 3.4-3.8 GHz “mid-band” spectrum typically used for 5G in most of the other countries including Australia.
Australian 5G operators are not expected to gain access to 26GHz mmWave spectrum for several years, with the ACMA due to begin allocating 26GHz spectrum in the second half of 2020. Some of the country’s first 5G handsets lack mmWave support and can only take advantage of mid-band 5G signals.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.