5G in Austria: Evaluating Performance Two Years After Launch

Tuesday 7 Sep 2021 | Associate Member | Member Press Release | Member Resources |

Austria has been held up as an example of a pioneer European 5G-market, having announced its 5G Strategy in April 2018, which has since been incorporated in the nation’s Broadband Strategy 2030. This strategy includes a number of 5G targets: commitments to early 5G trials, the rollout of 5G in all state capitals by the end of 2020 (which it has achieved), coverage of all main traffic routes in the country by the end of 2023 and nationwide 5G coverage by the end of 2025. We analyzed Speedtest Intelligence® data from Q1-Q2 2021 to see how performance is tracking two years on from launch. We compared Austrian 5G speeds to those of its regional peers and examined how its operators 5G networks perform across the country.

Key spectrum auctions are opening up Austria’s 5G market

Despite COVID-19 related delays, the Austrian regulator has completed the auction of spectrum in key 5G bands. The first auction in early 2019 saw all three national mobile operators acquire contiguous bands at least equal to the EU’s recommended 80-100 MHz in the C-band. A follow up multi-band auction (which included spectrum in the 700 MHz band) was conducted in September 2020 and included obligations to cover a range of not-spots (areas of zero mobile broadband coverage) and partial not-spots (areas of coverage by only one network operator).

Having access to large contiguous blocks of spectrum in the key C-band will allow Austrian operators to make more efficient use of their spectrum resources and better support high-bandwidth, low-latency 5G use cases. Austria already looks set to advance with standalone (SA) 5G networks, with Drei Austria recently announcing a trial in the capital Vienna and plans to launch a commercial 5G SA network in spring 2022. Notably, operators have complained that the high cost of mobile mast rental has slowed 5G rollout.

Switzerland had the fastest 5G among Austria’s European peers during Q1-Q2 2021

5G performance has seen some wild swings over the past year in Austria and its European peer countries in the region. Switzerland ended Q2 2021 with the fastest median 5G download speed on this list at 177.33 Mbps, followed by France (169.16 Mbps), Austria (143.98 Mbps), Germany (142.71 Mbps) and Italy (122.54 Mbps).
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Switzerland was also fastest for median upload speed over 5G during Q2 2021 at 36.37 Mbps, followed by Germany (26.22 Mbps), Austria (21.97 Mbps), Italy (16.43 Mbps) and France (15.95 Mbps). We often see 5G speeds decline after the initial launch period as more users adopt the technology, which adds congestion to cell sites. Additionally, the use of Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) allows operators to expand 5G coverage through the use of existing spectrum bands and incorporates bands at lower frequencies that can lead to slower median speeds.

Drei Austria was the fastest operator in Austria for 5G

5G performance varied widely among Austria’s top providers during Q1-Q2 2021 but Drei Austria had the fastest median 5G download speed at 183.04 Mbps. Accounting for statistical uncertainty, this was at least 21% faster than the nearest competitor. Magenta Telekom and A1 Telekom had slower 5G download speeds at 145.18 Mbps and 111.07 Mbps, respectively. For median 5G upload speeds, Magenta Telekom placed first at 24.43 Mbps.
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Innsbruck trumps Vienna on 5G download and upload speeds

While there was no statistical winner among Austrian capitals, Innsbruck had a median 5G download speed at 169.43 Mbps, which was demonstrably faster than Vienna’s median download speed of 144.93 Mbps. Since there was no clear winner among all state capitals, this indicates operators’ 5G rollouts to date have not prioritized any single state capital, and that they are currently managing the balance between providing 5G capacity with demand on the new network. Within the capital Vienna, Drei Austria’s 5G network showed the fastest performance during Q1-Q2 2021 achieving a median download speed of 193.66 Mbps.
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Austria has clearly seen a ramp up in mobile network speeds with the arrival of 5G. We’ll be interested to see if other providers make the necessary investments to catch up to Drei. This could bring up speeds across the country and improve Austria’s standing relative to its peers in the Speedtest Global Index, where it ranked 31st for mobile speed in July 2021. Learn more about how Speedtest Intelligence can help you benchmark your 5G performance against competitors.