Signal coverage of 5G
• Coverage of 4G signaling in 5G NSA
In a 5G NSA service, the 4G network offers the control signaling to the devices. The availability of 5G is advertised inside the 4G channel parameters. In an optimal case, the 5G is advertised in the same area the new radio is really available. Often the same base station offers the 4G signaling and the 5G bearer.
With the Netradar analytics, we can see where the 5G service is being advertised by the 4G signal.
• Difference between signaling and data bearer
As the frequencies are different and the propagation of the 4G and 5G signals are estimated based on models, we have situations where the network advertises a service that is not available in real life.
The Netradar analytics sees where 5G is being advertised by the 4G network and where people with 5G devices and subscriptions really do get onboard 5G. Digging further into the data, we can help understand why the customer does not get the new service and is instead left on 4G.
• Handovers between 4G and 5G
When both 4G and 5G are available, the network controls the service the customer gets. The decision on which radio service to choose is taken by the network. In most cases this works great. But with Netradar analytics, we can see situations where the customer’s device jumps back and forth between these two radio technologies. This increases delays in the data transmission and even full service loss before the new bearer is configured to carry the customer’s data.
The new 5G service offers a higher peak bit rate and lower latency compared to 4G – at least in most cases. Yet, as the 5G service is run along 4G and the data bearer is running on a different frequency, there can be serious performance issues that affect the customer.
In general, 5G offers a lower latency. The industry talks about 1ms latency but this usually means the delay of the radio link, not an end-to-end delay to the content in the cloud. The 1ms delay could be possible if content is hosted in the base station itself, so-called edge computing.
In reality, we see a similar end-to-end latency with current 4G and 5G networks. 5G latencies tend to be a bit smaller but since the path to the content can be long, the benefits of a lower latency radio link diminish.
Yet, what we do see in our data, is that 5G users often have very high latency peaks in their data transfers. With 4G, the worst case latencies can be several hundred milliseconds in a congested network but with 5G we have seen latencies as high as 1.5 seconds in some networks. These indicate that something in those 5G networks is not working right.
Similar surprises we see also with 5G download speeds. The industry advocates 1 Gbit/s peak speeds, and sometimes consumers can get very high speeds. But we also see very low speeds in 5G, even lower than 4G offers in the same location. In these cases, the device was using a very bad 5G bearer even though a better 4G signal would have been available. We also see network congestion events in 5G that lead to download speeds of less than 10 Mbit/s – not a tremendous service for a premium subscription.
The above are only some examples of analytics and views we can offer to a 5G provider. In a future post, we will look in more detail in these cases with real data from mobile networks. Stay tuned!