5G smartphone and network performance report from Qualcomm

Signals Research Group (SRG) has revealed its 5G performance report — on behalf of 5G chip supplier Qualcomm.
5G network performance
SRG collected thousands of gigabytes of test data from mobile networks in South Korea, the U.K., Switzerland, and various U.S. cities using commercially available 5G devices powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon Mobile Platforms.

Qualcomm, the number one chipset supplier for the 5G smartphone industry, is supporting over 30 5G networks that went live and 5G devices from more than 40 manufacturers — since the first 5G launch.

The SRG report said 5G doubled average capacity and achieved 10x peak performance gains over 4G LTE.

Despite testing multiple sub-6 GHz and millimeter wave (mmWave) networks across Asia, Europe, and North America, results from the study show a common theme: 5G networks provide important capacity and performance enhancements to existing networks.

The average capacity gains observed — on SKT, EE, Swisscom and Verizon networks — was at least 2x compared to existing LTE networks. Peak performance gains topped 10x.

The study characterized performance based on some walk testing and drive testing. For example, SRG observed an average of 220 Mbps during a walk test in central London using a sub-6 GHz network. The median 5G speed observed in downtown Minneapolis on Verizon’s mmWave network was 383 Mbps with peak speeds of 1.6 Gbps. This result is based on SRG’s testing immediately following Verizon’s launch in April. Recent testing, outside of this study, showed further performance enhancements since then.

SRG’s study debunks misconceptions about mmWave coverage and performance. The study proved 5G mmWave operating in non-line-of-sight scenarios. It showed that mmWave signals can reflect off buildings and provide enough signal strength to sustain a mobile data connection. Additionally, reflections can extend coverage around corners and even behind buildings that lie between the cell site and the smartphone.

SRG’s findings with a test device facing the opposite direction of the 5G mmWave radio shows how a reflected signal from two blocks away delivered data speeds of 200 Mbps – a result higher than typical LTE speeds.

While anecdotal testers blamed mmWave propagation challenges for apparent losses in 5G phone connections, the study concluded that quite often, the absence of the 5G icon is due to other factors involving the LTE network. Many times, a lost 5G link occurred when the smartphone is handed over to a new LTE cell site that isn’t paired with (i.e., not aware of) the 5G site – even if the 5G mmWave signal was still strong enough to sustain a connection. This is completely unrelated to the fundamentals of mmWave spectrum and can be addressed with network optimization.

Recently, Verizon announced 5G coverage in 13 NFL stadiums across the United States. Large venues, such as stadiums, tradeshow halls and transportation stations, are some of the most challenging environments in which to deliver good mobile connectivity. When these venues are packed, and crowds of users try to connect at the same time, it is a daunting challenge for operators to provide enough capacity to sustain reasonable performance. 5G mmWave brings the massive capacity that can satisfy such data demand.

SRG tested U.S. Bank Stadium – home of the Minnesota Vikings. With only 13 5G sites, Verizon was able to provide coverage to virtually all seats (66,000+) with good-to-great signal connectivity.

In addition to ubiquitous coverage within the seating area, average data speed was 1.66 Gbps with peak data rates at 1.95 Gbps.

In the streaming case, the 5G smartphone retained 1080p video resolution (max. available by the service) while LTE smartphone started with 480p before dropping to 360p due to network loading. Although neither video stalled during playback, LTE smartphone took 2.4x longer to start playing a lower resolution video.

5G also enhanced user experience in downloading content using popular applications such as Google Play, Google Drive, and Netflix. On average, downloading a game, movie or other content took 5x longer on LTE than it did with 5G.

5G can be more energy efficient than LTE, especially when supporting high bandwidth applications.

There is a perception that 5G with its multi-gigabit speeds can drain the battery compared to LTE. SRG measured how 5G impacts the battery life and compared it to LTE. The study concluded that while the impact on battery life is very nuanced and complex between the two technologies, 5G smartphones can deliver all-day battery life. Playing solitaire for 30 minutes in a phone can be the equivalent of downloading more than 30 GB of data with a good 5G connection.

In good radio conditions and for large amounts of data, 5G is more energy-efficient than LTE. Although the current drain is higher in 5G, the increased usage rate can be offset by the higher data speeds.

5G can download considerably more data than LTE with a 4400 mAh battery. The test is in a scenario in which users make voice calls, activate display, download data contents and more. Even in the scenario with assumptions most favorable to LTE, the total estimated battery life for the 5G device was at least 14 hours; long enough for regular workday.