5G mobile networks are here, and they can provide very fast internet speeds through mobile phones and mobile broadband routers. The New Radio (NR) technology used by 5G networks can do a lot more than what we currently see with the initial deployments of 5G that use a combination of 5G radio and 4G core networks. Based on the initial implementations of 5G networks in the UK, the download and upload speeds are faster than 4G LTE and LTE Advanced (LTE+) networks.
The average download speed of 5G New Radio (NR) networks is around 150 Mbps, and the average upload speed of 5G is around 30 Mbps. So depending on your mobile operator, you can expect to get a minimum download speed of 60 Mbps to 100 Mbps consistently and 200 Mbps to 400 Mbps every now and then.
With the arrival of 5G networks and the advancements in 4G LTE, the mobile data speeds are comparable with the fixed fibre broadband connections. While mobile internet had already become a broadband alternative with the introduction of advanced 3G data technologies like HSPA and EVDO, 5G has set the expectations to a new level. Advanced 4G networks, LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro, can deliver average download speeds of 50 to 80 Mbps which with 5G is more of a minimum speed. Have a look at our dedicated post on 4G LTE speeds if you are interested in finding out what download and upload speeds you can expect from LTE and LTE Advanced networks. Let’s now dive into the details of 5G download and upload speeds based on the theoretical potential and what is already available in real life.
Average download and upload 5G speeds in Mbps
While the maximum theoretical download speed of 5G networks is over 10 Gbps, real-life phones and broadband routers rely on the average speeds. The fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks use the cellular technology New Radio (NR), which is superior to the LTE technology that 4G networks use. The NR technology is expected to evolve alongside the LTE technology, which means that LTE is not going anywhere, and it will stay for a long time to complement 5G.
We carried out some 5G speed tests in the UK using a SIM card from one of the UK’s well known mobile operators. The speed tests were conducted in indoor and outdoor environments; however, the majority of the readings were taken in an indoor set up with a Google Pixel 5G phone. These readings were taken randomly over a period of eight (8) months in various parts of the UK, including central London, Osterley, Slough and Reading.
5G can consistently deliver download speeds of over 100 Mbps in indoor environments
The average download speed of 5G was found to be over 100 Mbps in more than 80% of the tests and over 175 Mbps in more than 50% of the tests. According to the tests, the download speed was below 50 Mbps only 5% of the time. The highest speed in an indoor setup was over 200 Mbps, and the highest in an outdoor setup was over 500 Mbps. Please have a look at the table below that shows the full summary of the test results for download speeds.
|5G Download Speeds||How frequently did we get this speed? (%)||How frequently did we get this speed? (#)|
|Over 50 Mbps||95%||97 out of 102 readings|
|Over 60 Mbps||95%||97 out of 102 readings|
|Over 70 Mbps||92%||94 out of 102 readings|
|Over 80 Mbps||89%||91 out of 102 readings|
|Over 90 Mbps||85%||87 out of 102 readings|
|Over 100 Mbps||81%||83 out of 102 readings|
|Over 150 Mbps||69%||70 out of 102 readings|
|Over 175 Mbps||58%||59 out of 102 readings|
|Over 200 Mbps||45%||46 out of 102 readings|
|Over 300 Mbps||20%||20 out of 102 readings|
|Over 400 Mbps||10%||10 out of 102 readings|
|Over 500 Mbps||1%||1 out of 102 readings|
|Under 50 Mbps||5%||5 out of 102 readings|
As a general rule, 5G networks can consistently deliver download speeds of over 100 Mbps, and the average download speed varies between 100 and 200 Mbps. While the maximum theoretical download speed of 5G is 10 Gbps+, 5G can already deliver speeds of over 500 Mbps in real-life outdoor environments.
5G can consistently deliver upload speeds of over 10 Mbps in indoor environments
The average upload speed of 5G was found to be over 10 Mbps in nearly 80% of our speed tests and over 20 Mbps in more than half (50%) of the tests. According to the tests, the upload speed was below 3 Mbps only 5% of the time. The highest upload speed was found to be 115 Mbps. Please have a look at the table below that shows the full summary of the test results for upload speeds.
|5G Upload Speeds||How frequently did we get this speed? (%)||How frequently did we get this speed? (#)|
|Over 10 Mbps||78%||80 out of 102 readings|
|Over 20 Mbps||52%||53 out of 102 readings|
|Over 30 Mbps||35%||36 out of 102 readings|
|Over 40 Mbps||25%||25 out of 102 readings|
|Over 50 Mbps||21%||21 out of 102 readings|
|Over 60 Mbps||18%||18 out of 102 readings|
|Over 70 Mbps||15%||15 out of 102 readings|
|Over 80 Mbps||15%||15 out of 102 readings|
|Over 90 Mbps||13%||13 out of 102 readings|
|Over 100 Mbps||12%||12 out of 102 readings|
|Under 10 Mbps||22%||22 out of 102 readings|
|Under 5 Mbps||8%||8 out of 102 readings|
|Under 3 Mbps||5%||5 out of 102 readings|
As a general rule, 5G networks can consistently deliver upload speeds of over 10 Mbps, and the average upload speed varies between 10 Mbps and 30 Mbps. 5G NR networks can already deliver upload speeds of over 100 Mbps in real-life outdoor environments.
Full results of the 5G download and upload speed tests
Let us now look at the full results of the tests conducted in the UK in the areas of central London, Osterley, Slough and Reading between July 2021 and March 2022. The results that show download speeds of over 300 Mbps are from tests carried out in outdoor environments (inside a car).
|Date of speed test||Download Speed (Mbps)||Upload Speed (Mbps)|
What about the latency of 5G NR networks?
For most of us, fast broadband service is mainly about the download and upload speeds that are essentially the data throughput of the network. Unless you are an avid gamer, you may not often worry too much about the latency of the network. Latency is a key measure of how fast a broadband or internet connection is. Latency is the time it takes for your download request to trigger a response from a server, for example, the YouTube server. I have written a detailed post on latency, which explains how it differs from ping.
Ideally, you want the latency of your 5G internet connection to be as low as possible to have a good experience as an internet user. 5G networks are fast and designed to achieve latencies of as low as one millisecond, however, the average latencies can generally be higher.
While it is hard to accurately measure latency using a free internet speed test tool because ping and latency can often be mixed up, the table below shows what the latency values looked like in our speed tests. If you look at the first and the last test results, you will notice that the first test has a download speed of 230 Mbps and a latency of only 13 ms, whereas the last result has a download speed of 330 Mbps (100 Mbps higher – so really good) but the latency is also high (not so good).
|Download Speed (Mbps)||Upload Speed (Mbps)||Latency (Milliseconds -ms)|
How to make sure your 5G experience is a good one?
If you want to use 5G as your main broadband service, you need to do a few checks. First, you need to ensure that you have a decent 5G coverage in your area, i.e. a 5G network cell tower is nearby. The best way to do that is to check the coverage maps of all mobile operators in your country to see who provides the best 5G coverage. Just because a particular mobile operator has a big name does not necessarily mean that they will have a good 5G coverage in your town or city. You also need to find a future-proof mobile broadband router compliant with the standards required by 5G. I have written a dedicated post on how to buy a 5G subscription, which can help you check all the essential aspects. The other thing to consider is to get a router that supports the latest Wi-Fi standards also so that when your router converts your “mobile data speed” into a Wi-Fi signal, there is no compromise on the speed. You want to ensure that the router offers at least decent 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands as part of Wi-Fi 5 and ideally the 6GHz band for WiFi6. As a side note, the 5GHz frequency band in Wi-Fi has no relationship with the 5G cellular service, but people often confuse 5GHz Wi-Fi with 5G cellular technology. If you need 5G just for your mobile phone and not for your mobile broadband router, look at this dedicated post on finding out if your phone is 5G compatible.
The 5G networks are still evolving, and mobile operators worldwide currently deploy non-standalone 5G networks that are a combination of 4G and 5G. The full 5G network is called standalone 5G, which can utilise the New Radio (NR) technology and associated higher frequency bands to their full potential to fulfil futuristic 5G use cases.
Here are some helpful downloads
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or 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 the challenges considering 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 you 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 the product overview and product roadmap.