Is 5G Fast? – Average 5G download and upload speeds

Mobile internet technology has reached a level of maturity where it is no longer a question of whether or not you can use it as broadband service. As soon as the 3G networks saw the HSPA and EVDO enhancements, mobile broadband service became a handy alternative, especially if you needed a broadband service for your laptop with a USB dongle. With the launch of LTE networks, especially with the LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro networks, the achievable speeds already became comparable with the home broadband services. Look at this post, where we captured the average 4G LTE download and upload speeds. But that’s not why you are here. You are reading this post to find out how different 5G mobile internet is compared to the 4G networks. The short answer is – It is very different and all in a good way. The fifth generation of mobile networks, 5G, is already live. Even though we are looking at it in this post from a broadband perspective, it offers a wide variety of use cases compared to earlier cellular technologies. While the maximum download speeds of 5G networks is in tens of Gbps, the average download speeds of over 100 Mbps are perfectly realistic. 5G is achieved through a technology called New Radio (NR) which will continue to work alongside the existing 4G LTE technology for a very long time. It is good news for both consumers and businesses because both 4G and 5G can already offer internet speeds above the average broadband speeds for UK households. Have a look at this link to check out the average broadband speeds in the UK.

What is the average 5G speed in Mbps?

5G mobile networks in the UK can offer average download speeds of around 150 Mbps or higher. The average upload speeds are also in the multiples of 10 Mbps, usually around 30-50 Mbps. However, some days, the download speed can drop down to 60-100 Mbps.

In Reading, Berkshire, where I live, I can safely say that the 5G speeds I have been getting over the last 3 months of using a 5G router have been consistently higher than the average UK fixed broadband speeds. However, having said that, I must confess that there have been occasions when I had to endure 15-20 Mbps in download speeds also on the very same 5G network. Have a look at some speed test results so you can Let’s have a look at the speed test results below to see for yourself what is possible with 5G.

Good days look like this…

Generally when connected to the ruoter via an Ethernet cable, the download speeds of around 170ish Mbps are not uncommon. There are days when 200 Mbps seems to be the average also, and the maximum I have seen on my 5G router is 235 Mbps which has happended a couple of times durign the last three (3) months.

5G speeds - cellular connection using WiFi
Speed test when connected to a 5G router via Ethernet cable in Reading, UK – April 2021
Speed test when connected to a 5G router via Ethernet cable in Reading, UK – April 2021

Not so good days…

There are also times when the download speeds are in the range of 60-70 Mbps. This can happen occasionally in the busy hours when the load on the network is high. Even though I won’t be disclosing which 5G mobile network and router I am using, but it is worth mentioning that so far I have only used my router within my house where the indoor 5G coverage, is not amazing (as per the operator’s network coverage page).

Speed test when connected to a 5G router via Ethernet cable in Reading, UK – June 2021

The factors that can negatively impact your 5G speeds are simple. First, you need to make sure that you actually have a 5G network cellular tower close by. The best way to do that is to check the mobile operators’ coverage maps to see who is providing 5G coverage in your area. You also need to find a future-proof router compliant with at least 3GPP release 15 (which introduces 5G NR). Look at this post to get information on the different 3GPP releases and their relationship with 5G networks. You can also directly go to 3GPP’s official website and check out release 15. The other aspect is the WiFi technology also; you want to make sure that the router offers at least decent 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands as part of WiFi5 and ideally the 6GHz band for WiFi6. The 5GHz in WiFi has absolutely no relationship with the 5G cellular networks but for some reason this terminology mix-up keeps causing confusion in the mobile and WiFi worlds. Finally, it is important to mention that the 5G today is not an end-to-end 5G network. Currently, mobile operators are using a combination of 4G and 5G to offer non-standalone 5G services. The next step from there is the standalone 5G network which is the end-to-end 5G. You can learn more about standalone and non-standalone 5G networks in this dedicated post.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. But sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy which explains the network nodes e.g. BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and challenges given how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.

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