OOKLA has published its ‘top ten’ list of real 5G speeds that users experience. Sadly, Australia does not even warrant a mention. There are a few reasons, but the significant one is that we have sub-standard, sub-6GHhz NSA, n78 – a sorry, cheap, excuse for 5G.
The top ten countries have mmWave 5G, and their top speeds range from 638.93 to 959.39Mbps (80-120MBps) and median speeds (what most users get) from 365.25 to 549.02 (47-69MBps) we are lucky to see 280Mbps/50ms sitting on top of a 5G tower. In fact, Optus did manage 323Mbps/18ms once in Sydney – congrats.
The Australian result (here) was from 332,972 user-initiated tests from 79,785 devices using Speedtest iOS and Android apps.
On the good news front, Australia’s median 5G speed is now up to 280Mbps – about twice as high as the global average (some nations have painfully slow 5G skewing the results). But 5G handsets had a pretty rough time trying to find 5G.
It is certainly not, as Telstra euphemistically puts it, ‘75% of the population’. The maps below speak loudest – real 5G access versus the Telco’s rubbish theoretical maps.
nPerf shows real availability
The nPerf project uses volunteers via an Android or iOS app to report carrier band availability in real-time. Once a spot gets 5G, it remains that way. You can zoom down to street levels – something carrier maps cannot do. Here is why we get so upset at rubbish coverage statements.
But lets drill down even further to the CBD that should be awash with Telstra purple.
There is an even slower 5G low-band coming – new phones needed
Australian Telcos are re-purposing low frequency (typically <1000MHz) 3G and soon 4G bands to 5G. It enables them to claim massive coverage, but they conveniently forget to mention it is at snail’s pace speeds similar to 4G. Oh, and you need a new phone too.
As far as we know, no Australian 5G phone with a Gen 3 or earlier modem sold to date has anything other than n78 NSA enabled. That will mean you must purchase a 5G phone when 3G goes in 2024.
At this stage, only high-end Android phones like the 2021 Qualcomm SD888-based OPPO Find X3 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G have 5G low-bands n5 (Telstra), n40 (Optus), n28 (Vodafone) in addition to sub-6Ghz n78 enabled.
Similarly, once mmWave is rolled out (if ever for consumers), we will need bands n257, N258 and perhaps n261 enabled.
While 5Gs march inevitably rolls on, there is still too much hype about speeds and coverage. If Telcos have their wicked way, there will soon be no low-cost 4G handset options. Buy a new 5G phone that supports low-band when 3G and 4G would have been fine. Then we will all have to pay for 5G access whether we need it or not.