5G more than holds its own against Wi-Fi in Singapore – report

Singaporeans trying out 5G, either at public venues or at home, are seeing no downside in performance when compared with Wi-Fi – at least when it comes to wiling away time on their smartphones with multiplayer games.

In terms of speed, however, smartphones connected to 5G fare much better. Up to 50% faster downlink throughput is apparently possible than Wi-Fi connections typically available found in public or at home on the island.

These were the headline findings of a new report from market research firm Opensignal.

Cut the cord: 5G is nearly 50% faster than Wi-Fi in Singapore, and provides users with the same multiplayer mobile games experience.  (Source: Kit Suman on Unsplash)
Cut the cord: 5G is nearly 50% faster than Wi-Fi in Singapore, and provides users with the same multiplayer mobile games experience.
(Source: Kit Suman on Unsplash)

"The arrival of 5G means that cellular connections are no longer always inferior to Wi-Fi," noted Sam Fenwick, senior analyst at Opensignal and author of the report.

Despite favorable findings on performance, Singaporeans, according to Opensignal's base of surveyed users, spent only 9.7% of their time connected to 5G over the 90-day survey period ending October 29.

The relatively limited uptake of mobile data, suggested Opensignal, was mainly due to a mixture of pandemic-induced lockdown restrictions and wide availability of public Wi-Fi venues.

5G doesn't spoil the fun

Helped in part by Singapore's adoption of 5G standalone networks, which promises lower latency, faster throughput and greater reliability than the non-standalone variant, Opensignal saw no statistically significant difference in surveyed users' multiplayer mobile games experience when on Wi-Fi or when connected to 5G.

Each ranked "excellent" in Opensignal's scoring system, meaning that nearly all respondents felt like they had control over the game and received immediate feedback on their actions. By contrast, Opensignal ranked the 4G games experience as "good" and 3G multiplayer games as "poor."

Opensignal's users also saw average speeds of 179.6Mit/s when connected to 5G — 58.8 Mbit/s (48.6%) faster than the 120.9 Mbit/s recorded when users were connected to Wi-Fi.

Fenwick noted that Singapore's 5G speeds are "relatively modest" by international standards, however, largely owing to the limited amount of 3.5 GHz spectrum as nearby countries use this band for direct-to-home satellite TV.

Singaporeans typically see average 4G speeds of 52.1 Mbit/s, added Opensignal, while average 3G speeds are 11.1 Mbit/s.

How will 5G and Wi-Fi compare in the future?

Both 5G and Wi-Fi are evolving, said Fenwick. The former through future 3GPP releases and the latter with the growing adoption of Wifi 6 (802.11ax).

"Improvements in Wi-Fi standards will be felt more quickly by users in Singapore than in many countries because fiber-based home broadband is already widespread", he added.

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"This means that smartphone users can look forward to seeing further improvements to their experience."

And despite 5G being faster than Wi-Fi – at least as things stand today – Fenwick pointedly added that Wi-Fi 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.

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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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