Brits have the lowest mobile download speed among G7 users

New report on mobile experience from Opensignal shows the UK has the lowest average download speed among the G7 countries, and it has barely improved since a year ago.

The user experience measurement company has just published its 2020 report to compare mobile experience in 100 countries across six domains: upload and download speed, video, voice and games experience, and 4G availability. On all parameters the UK has delivered a respectable but not spectacular performance.

In download speed, the UK ranks 36 out of the 100 countries, with an average 22.9 Mbps. This puts the UK on the bottom of the G7 countries. The minor improvement of 1.2 Mbps over last year’s 21.7 Mbps is also the most meagre incremental among the G7 countries. Globally, Canada just manages to edge South Korea to the top spot with 59.6 Mbps, a whopping 17.1 Mbps increase from a year ago. South Korea, which topped last year’s table, has clocked up an average download speed of 59.0 Mbps and sits in second place.

The authors of the report observed that, countries that have launched 5G services typically registered higher download speed and registered bigger increase than those that have not. However, with the exception of South Korea, where 5G penetration is approaching 10% of mobile users, 5G’s lifting impact on average download speeds in other countries is minimal. Surprisingly, among the 5G countries, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway all reported average download speed decrease. The report does not say why, and by the time of writing, Opensignal has not responded to Telecoms.com’s request for explanation. In a separate research published earlier the company compared 5G download speeds in different countries. Saudi Arabia led with 291 Mbps, followed by South Korea at 224 Mbps.

The G7 Comparison

The UK’s 7.5 Mbps average upload speed gives it a mid-table position. Switzerland leads with 16.2 Mbps, followed by South Korea (16.1 Mbps), Norway (15.7 Mbps), and Singapore (15.0 Mbps).

In video streaming experience, by which the company consolidates scores on picture quality, video loading time, stall rate, as well as perceived video experience as reported by mobile video users, the UK sits in the “Very Good” category with a score of 71.7 (out of a total of 100). The “Excellent” category, with scores over 75, has 15 countries, led by the Czech Republic with 79.1.

When it comes to 4G availability, UK mobile users were able to connect to 4G networks 89.2% of the time, up by 4.5% from a year ago, putting the country on position 31 in the table. Japan sits on the top with 98.5% availability closely followed by South Korea at 98.1%.

In games experience, the company measures how mobile users experience real-time multiplayer mobile gaming on mobile networks including latency, packet loss, and jitter. The Netherlands comes top in this category with 85.2 (out of a total of 100), edging the Czech Republic to the second place with a score of 85.1. The UK, with a score of 77.5, ranks among the better ones but is still trailing the best countries by a sizeable margin.

The last category measured in the Opensignal report is voice app experience, by which the company measures the quality of experience of OTT voice services like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Again, the score consolidates both technical measurements and perceived experience. South Korea leads the table with 84.0 (out of 100). Japans comes a close second with 83.8. The UK’s 80.6 is among the better scores.

In general, to look at it globally, UK mobile users enjoy a better than average experience across multiple categories. Meanwhile the benefits of 5G have yet to visibly spread more broadly. In the 5G research published by Opensignal, the UK’s 5G smartphones only connect to 5G networks in slightly over 5% of the time.

SK Telecom is bolstering 5G launch with rich content

South Korea’s largest mobile operator will switch on 5G service for consumers on Friday and has plenty of goodies for consumers to fill the bandwidth with.

After publishing its 5G service packages for consumers, SK Telecom (SKT) announced that it is beefing up content, from streamed games to HD and VR videos, that the 5G users can choose from. In a press release the company claimed it has secured around 8,000 different content titles.

A special section for 5G called “SKT 5GX” is set up in SKT’s OTT video service that would include VR video (concert, city and museum tours), 5G MAX (IMAX-like experience), and UHD content (dramas, entertainment shows and music videos in 4K and above). There on offer will also be VR and AR games as well as exclusive streaming games. Additionally, a social VR will enable “multiple users to watch baseball games together in a virtual reality environment.”

“The AR, VR and cloud games unveiled today only mark the beginning of the age of Hyper-Innovation brought by 5G,” said Park Jung-ho, the Chief Executive Officer of SK Telecom. “SK Telecom will continue to introduce 5G-based innovative services to lead all areas of New ICT.”

In order to promote the early adoption of 5G, SKT will zero-rate data for consuming the content from ‘SKT 5GX’ section of the OTT mobile video service, as well as provide up to 5GB of free data for users of its mobile games and VR games. The promotion will run till the end of June.

SKT said that it has rolled out 34,000 5G base stations covering 85 metropolises across the country as well as some hotspots like shopping centres, metro lines in the greater Seoul region, etc., and is planning to expand the coverage to all the metro lines in the country, as well as the national parks and festival sites. The company has excluded Huawei from its 5G business and has been working with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung.

Apple announces original content, a credit card and a news subscription service

Apple’s big services event didn’t disappoint, with a bunch of potentially disruptive launches together with new levels of hyperbole and clapping.

The headline service was Apple TV+, which marks Apple’s first major foray into original content. We were treated to an interminable procession of Hollywood types, starting with Stephen Spielberg and culminating with Oprah Winfrey, all taking it in turns to come onto the stage and hype their projects. Judging by the line-up Apple has realised it needs to spend big if it wants to take on the likes of Netflix.

As ever the audience of media and analysts at the live event were about as objective and sceptical as hungry puppies. Every pause in the polished narrative was filled with rapturous applause and ecstatic whoops. So choreographed was it that we wouldn’t be surprised if there were prompts and the tendency to cheer at the mere mention of a new product without waiting to even find out anything about it was especially jarring.

As was Apple CEO Tim Cook’s toe-curling hyperbole. “TV at its best enriches our lives and we can share it with the people we love,” he pronounced at the start of the TV announcement. The original content bit was preceded with the revelation that “great stories can change the world.” This sort of stuff was pretty hard to stomach when Steve Jobs was delivering it, but his messianic zeal just about pulled it off. Cook offers little such salve.

The other potentially disruptive announcement was a new Apple credit card called Apple Card. This had been rumoured for a while and, as expected, it has been create in partnership with Goldman Sachs and MasterCard. In reference to Apple Pay Cook felt compelled to say “Its growth has been literally off the charts,” for some reason. The most intriguing part of the card is the offer of 2% cash back on every purchase, which makes you wonder how much merchants are going to get stung for its use. There’s also a physical card made out of titanium that only offers 1% for some reason.

Apart from that we got a couple of new subscription services. The more significant one is for news and magazines that will set you back a tenner a month and will be positioned as a potential solution to the cash crisis faced by the media, but let’s see. “We believe in the power of journalism,” said Cook. There was also a teaser for a games subscription service that will offer exclusive titles and make it easier to play across platforms.

“We’re honoured that the absolute best line-up of storytellers in the world — both in front of and behind the camera — are coming to Apple TV+,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services. “We’re thrilled to give viewers a sneak peek of Apple TV+ and cannot wait for them to tune in starting this fall. Apple TV+ will be home to some of the highest quality original storytelling that TV and movie lovers have seen yet.”

“Apple Card builds on the tremendous success of Apple Pay and delivers new experiences only possible with the power of iPhone,” said Jennifer Bailey, VP of Apple Pay. “Apple Card is designed to help customers lead a healthier financial life, which starts with a better understanding of their spending so they can make smarter choices with their money, transparency to help them understand how much it will cost if they want to pay over time and ways to help them pay down their balance.”

“We’re committed to supporting quality journalism, and with Apple News+, we want to celebrate the great work being done by magazines and news outlets,” said Lauren Kern, Editor in Chief of Apple News. “We think the breadth and quality of publications within Apple News+ will encourage more people to discover stories and titles they may never have come across before.”

Note Apple News has an Editor in Chief. Cook made it clear that Apple would only serve up the right kind of news for its subscribers and he has been clear about his willingness to impose a moral filter on everything Apple does. You have to wonder how empowered to interfere with the content published on Apple News this Editor in Chief will be.

“This represents a landmark moment for Apple with a major event solely focussed on services,” said Analyst Paolo Pescatore, who was at the event. “It underlines a growing and strong focus on services as a future source of revenue growth. In essence Apple is seeking to become a Netflix of everything in services; music, news and magazines, video and games.

“Netflix has done a great job to date. However, more content and media owners will pull programming off its offering. This represents a significant opportunity for the likes of Apple who has scale and greater resources. There are too many players chasing too few dollars. The market will evolve towards a handful of players in the future.”

Apple idiosyncrasies aside this felt like a fairly solid  launch event. The company has an amazing track record of disrupting industries and seems likely to do so again with original TV content and consumer finance. The scene is set for a content arms race with only the biggest spenders likely to survive and Apple has a deepest pockets of all. Game on, here are some vids.