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5G wacky races

In a fascinating report by Opensignal, average 5G downlink speeds vary widely between different operators.

The biggest difference actually occurs within one country: the US.

Verizon Wireless, according to crowdsourced data collected by the market research firm, boasts an impressive average 5G downlink speed of 506.1 Mbit/s.

Of the ten 5G operators surveyed by Opensignal – stretching across Australia, South Korea, the US and the UK – Verizon Wireless is tops. The next three places, perhaps surprisingly, hail from South Korea: LG U+ (238.7 Mbit/s), SK Telecom (220.6 Mbit/s) and KT (215 Mbit/s).

Last on the Opensignal list is T-Mobile in the US. It could only muster a comparatively slothful 47 Mbit/s.

Time to write T-Mobile off as a 5G contender on its home turf, and relegate South Korean operators as somehow behind the US?

Not a bit. Verizon Wireless is the only surveyed 5G operator which exclusively uses millimeter wave spectrum. That explains its relatively high speeds.

T-Mobile, on the other hand, currently relies heavily on lowband 600MHz spectrum for 5G, which is great for coverage but not so good for speed. It helps explains why T-Mobile topped the Opensignal chart on "5G availability" (19.8%). "T-Mobile 5G speeds may not be the fastest," said Opensignal, "[but] their users will experience the higher 5G speeds considerably more often than the users of other 5G operators."

South Korean operators were similarly impressive on "5G availability," ranging from 15.4% to 12.6%.

Verizon Wireless? Its 5G availability came in at a microscopic 0.5%. It was bottom of the ten-operator pile on this metric.

As new T-Mobile combines the assets of Sprint, Opensignal expects to see the average 5G speed of new T-Mobile users rising as they benefit from the midband 5G spectrum which Sprint has deployed.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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