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Stable and Expanding: The State of 5G Worldwide in 2022

5G is no longer a new technology, however, consumers in many countries are still waiting to see the full benefits of 5G (or even to connect to 5G at all). We examined Speedtest Intelligence® data from Q3 2022 Speedtest® results to see how 5G performance has changed since last year, where download speeds are the fastest at the country level, and how satellite technologies are offering additional options to connect. We also looked at countries that don’t yet have 5G to understand where consumers are seeing improvements in 4G LTE access.

5G speeds were stable at the global level

Graphic of 5G median speed performance worldwide.

In 2021, we discussed how an expansion of 5G access led to a decline in overall speed at the global level. This year showed a stabilization in overall speed, even as 5G access broadened, with a median global 5G download speed of 168.27 Mbps in Q3 2022 as compared to 166.13 Mbps in Q3 2021. Median upload speed over 5G slowed slightly to 18.71 Mbps (from 21.08 Mbps) during the same period. According to the Ookla® 5G Map™, there were 127,509 5G deployments in 128 countries as of November 30, 2022, compared to 85,602 in 112 countries the year prior.

South Korea and the United Arab Emirates led countries for 5G speeds

Chart of fastest countries for median 5G download speed

South Korea and the U.A.E. had the fastest median download speed over 5G at 516.15 Mbps and 511.70 Mbps, respectively, during Q3 2022, leading a top 10 list that included Bulgaria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Kuwait, New Zealand, Bahrain, and Brazil. Bulgaria, Singapore, Bahrain, and Brazil were new to the top 10 in 2022, while Norway, Sweden, China, and Taiwan fell out of the top 10.

Satellite became more accessible but performance slowed
2022 saw a proliferation of fast, low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite internet from Starlink across the world. Q1 2022 saw Starlink speeds increase year over year in Canada and the U.S., with Starlink in Mexico having the fastest satellite internet in North America, Starlink in Lithuania the fastest in Europe, Starlink in Chile the fastest in South America, and Starlink in Australia the fastest in Oceania.

Q2 2022 saw Starlink speeds decrease in Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. from Q1 2022 as Starlink crossed the 400,000 user threshold across the world. Starlink in Puerto Rico debuted as the fastest satellite provider in North America. Starlink outperformed fixed broadband averages in 16 European countries. Starlink in Brazil had the fastest satellite speeds in South America. And Starlink in New Zealand was the fastest satellite provider in Oceania.

During Q3 2022, Starlink performance dipped once again from Q2 2022 in Canada and the U.S., while remaining about the same in Chile. Starlink in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands had the fastest satellite speeds in North America, while Starlink in Brazil again was the fastest satellite provider in South America.

With Viasat, HughesNet, and Project Kuiper set to launch huge LEO constellations in 2023, consumers around the world are poised to have more fast satellite internet options, particularly as the European Commission makes its own play for a constellation and Eutelsat and OneWeb potentially merging.

5G Availability points to on-going challenges
5G Availability measures the proportion of Speedtest users with 5G-capable handsets, who spend a majority of time connected to 5G networks. It’s therefore a function of 5G coverage and adoption. We see wide disparity in 5G Availability among markets worldwide, with for example the U.S. recording 54.3% in Q3 2022, well ahead of markets such as Sweden and the U.A.E., with 8.6% and 8.3% respectively.

Chart of 5G availability in select markets, based on users with 5G-capable handsets

Critical levers for mobile operators to increase 5G Availability include:

  • Increasing 5G coverage by deploying additional base stations
  • Obtaining access to, or refarming, sub-GHz spectrum, to help broaden 5G coverage, as sub-GHz spectrum has superior propagation properties than that of higher frequency spectrum bands.
  • Encouraging 5G adoption among users with 5G-capable handsets.

Speedtest Intelligence points to 5G adoption challenges in some markets, with 5G Availability dropping in Bulgaria, South Korea, the Netherlands, and the U.A.E. As more users acquire 5G-capable devices, operators need to balance their pricing models to ensure users have sufficient incentives to purchase a 5G tariff.

Chart of percentage change in 5G availability in select markets, based on users with 5G-capable handsets

Where 5G continues to fail to reach
Speedtest Intelligence showed 29 countries in the world where more than 20% of samples were from 2G and 3G connections (combined) during Q3 2022 and met our statistical threshold to be included (down from 70 in Q3 2021). These are mostly countries where 5G is still aspirational for a majority of the population, which is being left behind technologically, having to rely on decades-old technologies that are only sufficient for basic voice and texting, social media, and navigation apps. We’re glad to see so many countries fall off this list, but having so many consumers on 2G and 3G also prevents mobile operators from making 4G and 5G networks more efficient. If operators and regulators are able to work to upgrade their users to 4G and higher, everyone will benefit.

Countries That Still Rely Heavily on 2G and 3G Connections
Speedtest IntelligenceⓇ | Q3 2021
Country 2G & 3G Samples
Central African Republic 76.2%
Turkmenistan 58.5%
Kiribati 51.6%
Micronesia 47.4%
Rwanda 41.1%
Belarus 39.7%
Equatorial Guinea 37.7%
Afghanistan 36.7%
Palestine 33.5%
Madagascar 27.5%
Sudan 27.4%
Lesotho 26.5%
South Sudan 26.3%
Benin 26.0%
Guinea 25.5%
Cape Verde 24.3%
Tonga 24.3%
Syria 23.4%
The Gambia 23.4%
Ghana 23.3%
Palau 22.9%
Niger 22.8%
Tajikistan 22.7%
Mozambique 22.4%
Guyana 21.8%
Togo 21.8%
Congo 21.1%
Moldova 20.8%
Saint Kitts and Nevis 20.0%

We were pleased to see the following countries come off the list from last year, having dropped below the 20% threshold: Algeria, Angola, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Barbados, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Burundi, Caribbean Netherlands, Cook Islands, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gabon, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. While countries like Belarus, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Guinea, Guyana, Madagascar, Palestine, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Togo, and Turkmenistan are still on this list, they have improved the percentage of their samples on these outmoded technologies when compared to last year by at least 10 points. Palestine improved by more than 50 points. 2G and 3G samples in Kiribati increased 3.2 points when comparing Q3 2022 to Q3 2021.

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