Skip navigation
Time-to-content: Great user experience on 5G mid-band

Time-to-content: Great user experience on 5G mid-band

Exploring time-to-content and user experience

Available in English 繁體中文

Smartphone users who are connected to 5G mid-band enjoy faster content load times and an overall better user experience

Key findings

Measurements from a leading service provider show that 97 percent of all user activities on 5G mid-band achieved a time-to-content of less than 1.5 s, compared to 67 percent on 5G low-band and 38 percent on 4G (all bands).

Great smartphone user experience requires a consistent throughput “at click” of at least 20 Mbps in the downlink, anywhere and anytime.

Leading service providers are deploying 5G mid-band to offer great smartphone user experiences while offloading their often-congested lower bands.

Time-to-content is the time between a user’s “click” and the point at which a video starts playing or the web page is perceived to have loaded. Consumer research shows that time-to-content heavily influences user experience on mobile broadband; consumers expect instant access to content at any time and location, particularly when the 5G icon is shown on their smartphone. Great user experiences are crucial for minimizing churn and maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty.

An Ericsson SmartphoneLab study showed that a downlink throughput at click of 20 Mbps and an uplink throughput at click of 1 Mbps is required for a great smartphone user experience, given today’s most popular web and streaming video content.[1] Beyond these speeds, user experience only improves marginally.

Why content providers care about time-to-content

Time-to-content is a key metric that the content provider industry has long relied on to evaluate user experience. Entire industry branches, such as content distribution networks, have emerged to minimize time-to-content and enhance user experience. Today, nearly every online company that prioritizes user experience has integrated content distribution networks into its operations. The rationale includes protecting brand perception, retaining customers and increasing conversion rates. Maintaining consistently low time-to-content is vital for any online business. On 5G and 4G networks, time-to-content is mainly determined by the upload and download speeds available to the device when a user “clicks.”[2]

5G mid-band improves user experience

The time-to-content model in Figure 11 rates user experience based on a scale introduced by Google[3] with an additional level of user experience, “great,” added to form a scale ranging from “great” (<1.5 s) to “poor” (>4.0 s). According to the model, achieving a “great” time-to-content requires a downlink throughput of at least 20 Mbps.

Based on measurements in a commercial mobile broadband network in North America, an analysis was conducted to compare time-to-content for users that connect to the network via 5G mid-band versus 5G low-band versus 4G (all bands). Every experience for all users connected to the network was measured for 24 hours a day over the course of one week. The analysis is based on several billion data samples collected in the Radio Access Network.

Figure 11: Time-to-content model for user experience

Figure 11: Time-to-content model for user experience


Ericsson’s SmartphoneLab conducted a study[4] into the relationship between time-to-content and downlink throughput at click, meaning the throughput available to the device during the time-to-content phase. A wide range of different content types, such as video streaming, social media, e-commerce, media news and company pages, was used to determine the relationship. The result is shown in Figure 11. The analysis includes factors such as the expected increase in size (in MB) of popular content and advancements in device processing power.

Figure 12: User experience in a North American network

Figure 12: User experience in a North American network

Each throughput at click sample was mapped to a time-to-content sample based on the relationship shown in Figure 11. The results are shown in Figure 12. The analysis reveals that on 5G mid-band, 97 percent of user activities achieved a time-to-content of less than 1.5 s, whereas on 5G low-band, 67 percent achieved the same, and on 4G (all bands), the result was 38 percent.

This analysis demonstrates a significant user experience boost with 5G compared to 4G. The mid-band spectrum provides the sweet spot between both coverage and capacity, effectively bridging the speed, capacity, coverage and penetration gaps between the low-band and high-band frequencies. Aggregating mid-band carriers with existing low-band carriers extends the mid-band coverage, while also offloading the often-congested low-band. This improves the user experience on both spectrum bands. Leading service providers are deploying 5G mid-band nationwide to ensure consistently great user experiences.

Boosting capacity across the network ensures a great user experience

Slow download speeds often occur due to congestion on the radio interface when numerous devices are active simultaneously in the same place. Different areas of a network are exposed to high traffic load at different times during a day as population density changes. For example, density is typically high in the morning near bus and train stations, while it is not as high, yet, in the city’s business district. To ensure a great smartphone user experience, a throughput of 20 Mbps downlink should be consistently available to a user’s smartphone at every “click”, even in busy areas and during peak times.

Next steps

Ericsson Mobility Visualizer

With our Mobility Visualizer tool, you can examine the forecast data that underpins the Ericsson Mobility Report in our interactive web application.

Discover the data

Ericsson Mobility Calculator

Explore the relationship between the usage of various app types and monthly traffic per subscription with our interactive Mobility Calculator tool.

Explore the calculator

Featured articles

With each edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report we include a number of feature articles, exploring various aspects of the mobile industry. Learn about the latest developments.

Read now

Ericsson Mobility Report

Our forecasts are based on past and current data, validated with extensive network measurements. Discover the latest figures for 5G, IoT, fixed wireless access and more.

Explore now

Subscribe to receive Ericsson Mobility Report updates

The face of mobile communications is changing faster than ever. Stay up-to-speed with projections and analyses of the latest trends in the mobile industry, including subscriptions, mobile data traffic and population coverage.

Subscribe now to get the full reports and quarterly updates sent directly to your inbox.

Subscribe now