Even though the 5G mobile broadband standard was introduced relatively recently, the first applications for 6G technology are already being issued by countries like China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea. According to data from Open Signal, all of these countries still have a long way to go when it comes to widespread 5G coverage though.
As our chart shows, South Korea and the United States are the only countries out of those leading the 6G charge securing top spots in terms of 5G availability. Even so, the numbers are no real cause for celebration. While the East Asian nation sits at the top spot, its users were still only connected to 5G networks 28.1 percent of the time. In the U.S., users were only able to sustain a 5G connection for a fifth of their total time connected to a mobile broadband network. On the other hand, all of the countries with the highest availability of 5G also showed an almost complete coverage with 4G network service in 2020, the lowest being Saudi Arabia with 86 percent. The fact that the combined numbers are surpassing 100 percent makes sense when you look at the current requirements for a 5G connection. Since it's dependent on 4G or LTE+ tech, users need to be connected to a 4G network first before being able to make a 5G connection at the moment, although the rollout of the stand-alone version of the standard has already started in select countries.
While the first 4G service launched in 2009 in the cities of Oslo and Stockholm, 5G was first rolled out in 2019, explaining the comparatively low availability even in countries at the forefront of 4G coverage. As Andre Fuetch, CTO Network Services at U.S. telco provider AT&T told Reuters, 5G is "is still early in its lifecycle and is being evolved and enhanced through ongoing investment and innovation." Even with 6G patent applications already being filed, the newest mobile broadband technology still has a lot of time to catch up: On average, it takes a new technological standard roughly ten years from the first patent to commercialization according to a Samsung whitepaper.