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StarHub 5G Speed Tests Round #2: How Does It Hold Up Against Its Own 4G?

StarHub 5G Speed Tests Round #2: How Does It Hold Up Against Its Own 4G?

(Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash.)

(Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash.)

After last week’s taste test of StarHub’s 5G trial network, the HWZ team wondered if there’s more to the speeds we were seeing. After all, 5G is slated to offer amazing latency and gigabit-speeds regardless of SA or NSA infrastructure. We also wondered if the network coverage improved since our last brush with it, since it expanded from 53% to 60% coverage in just one week. Before long, we were off on another road trip around other parts of Singapore to see whether StarHub has made good on its word for 5G expansion.

Well, the network was still quite challenging to catch, especially when our testing sometimes showed a 4G signal when we were connected to the 5G network, but it certainly has expanded beyond our expectations. We’ve added some new areas into the mix, such as Changi Airport, the general Jurong area, and also Singapore’s hub for Smart Nation, Biopolis and Fusionopolis.

We’ve kept the testing parameters similar to our last run. However, our curiosity has led us to try pitting it against StarHub’s very own 4G network for comparisons.

Our speed tests were undertaken across multiple days:

  • Sunday 30 Aug, 10-11PM (E!Hub, Airport)
  • Monday 31 Aug, 9:30AM-5PM (One-north region, West Mall, JEM/Westgate)
  • Tuesday 1 Sep, 12-2PM (Junction 8, Causeway Point), and 9PM (Punggol East)
  • Wednesday 2 Sep, 11AM-6PM (Vivocity, CBD, Orchard, MBS)

After driving about 150km, spending S$11 on parking charges, lots of walking in between, and busting our own StarHub’s grandfathered L plan’s mobile data allotment by another 8GB (it only had 8GB to begin with), what did we find out about StarHub’s new 5G network? 

Our pair of Oppo Find X2 flagship phones - one with 5G firmware enabled, and the other still using current commercial firmware.

Our pair of Oppo Find X2 flagship phones – one with 5G firmware enabled, and the other still using current commercial firmware.

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Before we go on to the test results per area, here are our testing parameters:

  • The testing app was none other than the latest version of Speedtest by Ookla app available on the Google Play Store.
     
  • We used two identical phone models – the Oppo Find X2 Pro – where one had access to StarHub’s 5G network, while the other was connected to StarHub’s 4G network.
     
  • Both handsets were tested against third-party, independent servers – namely, fdcservers.net and OVH Cloud.
     
  • While one test phone was using a trial 5G SIM card using StarHub’s new Mobile+ plan, the other device was using a personal 4G SIM card service that’s subscribed to StarHub’s old postpaid L plan. This should give us a theoretical look at what 5G is capable now against an actively used 4G service.
     
  • We would constantly find ways to make the 5G-capable test phone latch onto the 5G network. It involved nothing more than the liberal use of Airplane Mode or restarting the phone. For the 4G network control unit, we simply ensured it was at full signal bar during the test, or the highest possible number of signal bars for that area.
     
  • All speed tests were conducted while stationary, with one test device in each hand.

Central part of Singapore

We returned to Plaza Singapura and Orchard Central. Since we were also curious about 5G deployment around educational institutes (with SMU being nearby), we conducted the test around the SMU campus too.

Plaza Singapura

Plaza Singapura

Plaza Singapura

StarHub LTE Test 1.

StarHub LTE Test 1.StarHub LTE Test 2.StarHub LTE Test 2.

StarHub 5G Test 1.

StarHub 5G Test 1.StarHub 5G Test 2.StarHub 5G Test 2.

5G indeed offered a very modest increase to StarHub’s existing LTE network, but you can see the upload speeds need work. Not off to a great start, but the next stop will catch your interest. 

Cuppage Road (Junction of Centrepoint and Orchard Point)

Cuppage Road, the walkway between Centrepoint and Orchard Point

Cuppage Road, the walkway between Centrepoint and Orchard Point

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5g Test 1

StarHub 5g Test 1StarHub 5g Test 2StarHub 5g Test 2

5G speed improved tremendously for one benchmark, and even then, it was still considerably faster than StarHub’s 4G, too.

Orchard Central (indoor)

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

Again, we see superior speeds for an indoor location albeit for only one test. Note the more stable and decent LTE network performance.

Singapore Management University, outside School of Econs / Social Sciences

Right outside SMU's School of Economics/Social Sciences

Right outside SMU’s School of Economics/Social Sciences

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

Since StarHub said that it was seeing 300Mbps towards the higher end of its in-house tests, our 5G speed test resulting in 431Mbps really blew our socks off, on top of its steady >350Mbps performance. It must be noted that such fast speeds are localised at a very small and specific area of about 10m radius; anywhere outside it and the 5G speeds taper off. It was likely that our random test spot was very near a 5G base station.

South of Singapore

We revisited MBS and Harbourfront again, to see if there are any changes to the 5G coverage.

At the same time, we felt compelled to do a quick check on the 5G coverage in the CBD area, hence we did a pit stop at Enggor Street (area behind 100AM at the south of Tanjong Pagar) to conduct a quick test.

Marina Bay Sands (outside Apple Store)

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

Compared to last Friday, we can see some early stages of 5G deployment in the Marina Bay Sands area.

Since indoor 5G isn’t introduced yet, and because we’ve already tested indoor coverage in our last run, we decided not to test the indoor part of MBS again.

Enggor Street (between 100AM and Union Building)

Enggor Street

Enggor Street

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

5G performance in the CBD area barely scraped though to meet the most baseline expectation of 5G speeds, and is comfortably on par with the LTE network’s performance. Not to be surprised since 5G NSA is based on existing 4G network infrastructure and it will probably get better in time, but more so once 5G SA is deployed. Meanwhile, it would be interesting to see how Singtel performs in these locations.

Bus stop outside VivoCity 

Finally the 5G base stations are activated, but the speeds are still rather low

Finally the 5G base stations are activated, but the speeds are still rather low

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

It was puzzling to find out the 5G speeds tested on 2nd September fared worse than the tests conducted on 28th August, though we note that Speedtest is now reflecting 5G in its test. Perhaps it is indeed signs of early deployment.

West of Singapore

A strong 5G network serves as one key thrust for our nation’s Smart Nation ambitions, and what better than having business parks to represent that?  We visited the Biopolis and One-North region with this in mind. Besides, StarHub also listed Buona Vista and One-North as one of the many places with 5G deployment. With that, we added these two locations to the test. 

Also, we returned to the two locations tested before: West Mall and Jurong East area.

Biopolis area (nexus of Helios, Chromos, Centros)

Biopolis, outside Starbucks

Biopolis, outside Starbucks

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

We managed speeds of 384Mbps in an area between Starbucks and Bodacious. Also, ample 5G coverage is observed from the area bounded by Helios, Centros, and Chromos, all the way until a few meters into the One-North Park itself.

One-North area (outside Fusionopolis One)

Fusionopolis, facing Galaxis

Fusionopolis, facing Galaxis

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

While we were able to get some 5G speeds (and some rather low LTE speeds) in this particular spot in between Galaxis and Fusionopolis One, near carpark entrance, the 5G coverage in this area is still a hit-and-miss affair.

Outside West Mall in Bukit Batok

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

5G speeds have certainly improved tremendously compared to the last test, though the LTE speeds here are commendable too. Similar to our earlier attempts, StarHub’s 5G upload speeds still require more work.

Jurong area (in between Jem and West Gate)

Actual testing done in between Jem and Westgate, but was crowded with too many people to take a nice photograph

Actual testing done in between Jem and Westgate, but was crowded with too many people to take a nice photograph

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

This is another test area where 5G signal was captured, but the Speedtest app still indicated LTE. Overall, there wasn’t much improvement, with speeds on par with its LTE network.

North of Singapore

We revisited the areas surrounding Causeway Point and Junction 8 again.

Outside Causeway Point

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

It would seem that the speeds here improved modestly, though LTE speeds here are also decent.

Bus stop outside Junction 8

Bishan bus stop outside J8: Always very busy

Bishan bus stop outside J8: Always very busy

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

5G speeds are decent despite the lunchtime crowd and after-school students thronging the venue.

We also observed 5G signal availability and similar speeds at the junction between Junction 8 and Bishan bus interchange as well. However, we noted the loss of 5G signal while passing through the indoor passageway leading to the bus interchange. 

East and North-east of Singapore

For the eastern front, we only revisited the area outside E!Hub at Downtown East. We did not return to Blk 75 Marine Drive as it was a low-traffic residential area, where residents are likely to rely on their Wi-Fi instead.

Instead, we added the Punggol East hotspot since it’s populated with food & beverages establishments and sporting facilities.https://95736df2d2a382660e7566a75555b774.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

We also felt that Changi Airport, as the international gateway of Singapore, should be one of the places where many people will make their first contact with our country upon landing. Having a strong 5G network here seemed like a logical assumption since Changi Airport hosts many cutting-edge technologies and solutions.

Changi Airport Terminal 3

The driveway seems boring, hence here's T3 departure hall as representative

The driveway seems boring, hence here’s T3 departure hall as representative

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

While we did latch on to the 5G network successfully, Speedtest app however reflected it as LTE, and the speeds obtained tell us that the 5G here is not yet at its prime (as of 30th August 2020, 10PM).

Outside E!Hub at Downtown East

Opposite E!Hub

Opposite E!Hub

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

StarHub 5G Test 1

StarHub 5G Test 1StarHub 5G Test 2StarHub 5G Test 2

Here we continue to get decent 5G speeds, though the LTE network performed almost as well. Oddly though, the ping times obtained at this test spot is notably bad for a 5G network and the 4G network easily bested it.

Punggol East, outside Riveria prawning shop

Punggol East, outside Riveria Prawn Fishing

Punggol East, outside Riveria Prawn Fishing

StarHub LTE Test 1

StarHub LTE Test 1StarHub LTE Test 2StarHub LTE Test 2

Starhub 5g Test 1

Starhub 5g Test 1Starhub 5g Test 2Starhub 5g Test 2

The 5G speeds here are at its infancy, on par with its LTE counterpart. We experienced decent 5G coverage, having covered the whole stretch from the PAR Golf Range to the Punggol East Container Park.

Closing Remarks

Seeing how LTE itself has advanced beyond its early days, low LTE speeds are more likely to come from specific mobile plans, bad network days or an extreme peak hour crunch among others and are unlikely to be representative of any telco. For instance, LTE Cat 11 has a max speed of 600Mbps, but we’ve not seen that in any of our tests despite having one of the most advanced smartphones around.

We’ve also tested our personal mobile devices on a variety of data plans and learnt that, as long as the phone has its advertised compatibility with advanced LTE bands, it can see speeds similar to the ones offered on StarHub’s early 5G network. 

While obvious, network speeds are subjected to location as well – not just your plan and device. It’s the main reason why we had to try the networks out at different parts of Singapore and again, it could be subjected to a host of reasons beyond your choice of telco.

Areas with excellent 5G trial speeds also happen to have good LTE speeds, which again could be a result of good mobile data fengshui.

Specifically for StarHub, 5G saw notable improvements for some locations from our last test run. The proliferation of 5G access on StarHub’s end likely boiled down to the readiness of base stations, which is why the network ‘improved’ in seemingly random intervals and areas.

While it was far easier to get 5G signals on the same test device now, certain areas, such as MBS, still required a force-restart of our phone to latch onto a higher-quality network. It was also evident that 5G NSA is indeed based off 4G infrastructure given some of the similar speeds, something which StarHub noted was a key part to expanding 5G access for wide availability.

As seen in our test results, the West side of Singapore is known for many excellent things, but mobile data connectivity isn’t one of them.

Finally, it’s also worth noting it’s barely two weeks since StarHub started provisioning 5G trial for consumer use. We still strongly believe that these numbers are barely representative of the monstrous speeds 5G can get. After all, Singtel recently launched its 5G trial with much fanfare around how it saw 1Gbps+ speeds. In fact, 1Gbps+ throughput is still considered on the lower end spectrum of what 5G can offer, so there really is a lot more that we can expect in the years to come.

Stay tuned to our future 5G testing coverage as more telcos start activating the service to life on our little island!

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