Geek Test: StarHub 5G NSA Network Speeds Tested Across Singapore

It has been more than a year since the faster and more efficient 5G cellular networks were first introduced in certain countries around the world, luring consumers with the expectations of great speeds and even greater connectivity, but as with any new technology, there are certain caveats.

Yes, 5G networks are much faster than the current 4G ones, and for all Singapore’s technological advances, it was not until fairly recently that Singapore’s telecommunications network provider StarHub first announced that it will be conducting 5G Non-Standalone Access (NSA) network trials across Singapore. This means that Singaporeans will finally be able to enjoy even faster network speeds when watching shows on streaming sites or downloading videos or games to enjoy later, though trials normally mean available in certain areas, and not nationwide. 


What is 5G NSA?

When it comes to cellular networks, radio signals depend on a radio spectrum to support it and for the best performance, 4G has its own spectrum, and 5G should as well. NSA stands for Non-Standalone Access, which means that 5G NSA taps on a 4G spectrum as an anchor to help provide its users with higher speed and greater data bandwidth. With NSA, network providers will be able to leverage their existing network assets to give its users a 5G-like experience. 

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Since the switch from 4G to 5G requires the use of new equipment and spectrum, almost all countries that offer 5G networks start off by introducing its users to 5G NSA.

With 5G NSA, StarHub will be able to introduce a new 5G network to customers and early adopters of 5G-enabled devices faster and earlier than if they chose to introduce a 5G Stand Alone (SA) network, which requires new, specialised equipment. Treat this as a preview of what’s to come, when full 5G rollout is expected to take place. The NSA network will help both StarHub and its users transition a lot more smoothly to the 5G SA network when it is finally available next year. 

This trial allows StarHub to monitor traffic, use, congestion and help it to fine-tune its 5G roll-out next year.

Geek Culture recently had the opportunity to test StarHub’s 5G NSA networks across the nation but before we delve into the results of our test to see if the 5G network around Singapore is really up to par, it is important to know what users be able to get with the new network. 


What can 5G provide?

Currently, 4G networks are able to offer its users speeds of around 50 to 100Mbps, with a peak of 1Gbps, and latency of 20-30ms. Though that speed already seems plenty fast, and is what most of us are already familiar with, these speeds are nowhere near the speeds a 5G network can offer. 

5G networks will typically allow speeds of around 100-900 Mbps, which is much faster than standard 4G networks, with peak speeds reaching higher than 10 Gbps. Plus these speeds are even offered by the most standard of 5G NSA networks that are anchored onto 4G infrastructure. For StarHub, it is currently able to offer 5G NSA speeds of around 100-600Mbps.

5G networks also tout a significantly lower latency of just 1ms and offer a feature called “network slicing”, which are essentially virtual network architectures that allow for network operators to provide its users’ end-to-end networks tailored to meet their specific requirements. Think of it as a form of data priority that is only offered on 5G networks. 

So what does this mean for users?  Say you are a gamer and wish to have fast network speeds when cloud gaming – you can apply for a network slice with your network provider. Thereafter, a slice especially for your ‘cloud gaming’ will be made and you will be able to get unparalleled 5G network speeds when gaming on your smartphone, and regular 5G speeds for other tasks such as web browsing and video streaming. 

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As you can see, there are numerous industries that can benefit from using a 5G network, such as retail, logistics, and emergency services. 

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Testing StarHub’s 5G Around Singapore

Since its announcement on 18 August, StarHub has been increasing its 5G NSA network across the island, and now offers 60% coverage across Singapore. The catch? All of StarHub’s 5G NSA cell towers are outdoor, so you can only get blazing speeds if you’re in an open area covered by the cell tower.

The other thing to note is that you need a 5G device to enjoy 5G connectivity. Devices such as the Huawei P40 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Note 20 series are 5G ready, but some require a software update to work with local networks. 

And so, armed with a 5G sim card courtesy of StarHub and an Oppo Find X2 Pro, we selected certain locations around Singapore to put StarHub’s 5G NSA to the test. 

Since StarHub says its 5G coverage is currently strictly limited to the outdoors, we kept the test entirely outdoors. Here’s a map of the areas covered by StarHub’s 5G NSA, and we did our test across 5 major areas around the island.

For our methodology, we hosted three videos on a Google Drive, and one on a cloud folder connected to a NAS (Network Attached Storage) in our office. We proceeded to download all the files and measured the time taken to download all four videos on both 5G and 4G networks, to compare if there are any noticeable differences when using both networks, and which is better. 

We also conducted speed tests for both 5G and 4G networks at all locations to give you a quick look at exactly how different the two network speeds are. 


CENTRAL – Plaza Singapura, Dhoby Ghaut 

5G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 172Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.52 Mbps
Download Speed: 383Mbps
Upload Speed: 28.5Mbps
5G Video Downloading
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
6min 58sec3min 23sec1min 31sec8min 25 sec
4G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 91.9Mbps
Upload Speed: 34.9 Mbps
Download Speed: 232Mbps
Upload Speed: 49.8Mbps
4G Video Downloading 
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
8min 10sec4min 20sec1min 47sec6min 20sec

For the central region of Singapore, we did our test at Plaza Singapore, in the open area right in front. As you can see from the results of our speed tests, it is clear that the 5G network was giving us a much faster network speed, with the clearest difference being the test conducted on the OVH Cloud server, with the 5G network having a download speed that is nearly twice that of the 4G network. Perhaps it is because we were in the heart of town, and pretty close to an actual StarHub outlet, but the latency between both types of network is barely noticeable, which is a pleasant surprise. 

The difference in network speed is reflected in the time taken to download each of our videos, with the 5G network winning in almost every aspect except when downloading the 2Gb video from our cloud folder off Google Chrome. Though there are a number of variables that could have been the reason for that, it is possible that as Google has a data centre right here in Singapore, it helps to ensure that files downloaded off its services are fast and reliable. Meanwhile, our 2Gb video on NAS could be downloaded off servers that aren’t able to connect to the 5G NSA network as efficiently. 


CENTRAL – Orchard Gateway, Somerset 

5G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 111Mbps
Upload Speed: 33.3Mbps
Download Speed: 200Mbps
Upload Speed: 31.8Mbps
5G Video Downloading
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
9min 34sec3min 55sec2min 8sec13min16sec
4G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 97.8Mbps
Upload Speed: 45.9Mbps
Download Speed: 160
Upload Speed: 47.3Mbps
4G Video Downloading 
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
13min 30sec4min 36sec2min 40sec11min 47sec

Much like the test conducted in Dhoby Ghaut, the 5G network in Orchard Gateway, Somerset was noticeably faster than StarHub’s 4G. Not only did we get better results in the speed tests, but also when downloading our videos, where once again, 5G managed to download our videos off Google Drive faster than its 4G counterpart. 

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From the speed test, we can also see that the 5G network has a lower latency than its 4G alternative. 


WEST – West Mall, Bukit Batok

5G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 209Mbps
Upload Speed: 33.7Mbps
Download Speed: 121Mbps
Upload Speed: 28.1Mbps
5G Video Downloading
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
9min 6sec3min 48sec1min 47sec15min 59sec
4G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 109Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.68Mbps
Download Speed: 161 Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.68Mbps
4G Video Downloading 
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
12min 26sec4min 48sec2min 17sec11min 50 sec

Moving on from the central region of Singapore, we travel to Bukit Batok where we conducted our 5G test right outside West Mall. Once again, despite being less than a month old, StarHub’s 5G network proved its superiority with its faster download and upload speeds.


EAST – Downtown East, Pasir Ris

5G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 171Mbps
Upload Speed: 15.5Mbps
Download Speed: 172Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.52Mbps
5G Video Downloading
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
5min 50 sec3min 19sec1min 31sec14min 20sec
4G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 67.2Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.67Mbps
Download Speed: 132Mbps
Upload Speed: 9.88Mbps
4G Video Downloading 
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
18min 26sec8min 57sec2min 47sec10min 16sec

Perhaps due to the fact that we were all the way in Pasir Ris, the difference between the time taken to download videos using both 5G and 4G were extremely high, with the 10Gb video taking almost 20 minutes to download when we used 4G, as compared to the 5G alternative which took a little less than 6 minutes. It seems those living in the east will benefit greatly from a 5G network once its services are fully rolled out. 


NORTH – Junction 8, Bishan

5G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 105Mbps
Upload Speed: 14.7Mbps
Download Speed: 149Mbps
Upload Speed: 27.2Mbps
5G Video Downloading
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
16min 12 sec6min 52sec3min 8sec10min 46sec
4G Speed Tests
OVH Cloud Serverfdcservers.net
Download Speed: 72.3Mbps
Upload Speed: 8.18Mbps
Download Speed: 90.6Mbps
Upload Speed: 8.18Mbps
4G Video Downloading 
10GB (Google Drive)5GB (Google Drive)3GB (Google Drive)2GB (Cloud)
18min 14sec8min 26sec3min 54sec10min 7sec

Based on our test results, it seems the 5G network in the North, or more specifically Junction 8, Bishan, is still not as strong as other locations listed by StarHub as we took significantly longer to download our videos off Google Chrome at Bishan. For comparison, it only took us a little less than 7 minutes to download a 10Gb video at Dhoby Ghaut but we took more than 16 minutes to download the same video at Bishan. Surprisingly, the 2Gb video that we downloaded from our cloud server off Google Chrome was fairly quick, losing only to our test at Dhoby Ghaut.

Despite the slower 5G speed in comparison to the other locations in our test, the 5G network in Bishan still allowed us to download our videos faster than its 4G counterpart. 


Toa Payoh

Based on the locations listed on StarHub’s website, we tried testing out StarHub’s 5G near Toa Payoh’s HDB Hub, only to get lacklustre results from the 5G speed test. We were later told by StarHub that the area we were at is not yet serviced by the network provider’s 5G service. Instead, we should have headed to the amphitheatre near Toa Payoh Public Library. As StarHub’s 5G is still in its public trial phase, it is no surprise that only specific areas in its stated locations will offer quality 5G coverage, and we imagine it will get better once the full service is rolled out. 


From the various tests conducted around Singapore, it is obvious that StarHub’s 5G network is indeed capable of delivering reliable and fast network speeds as promised, though it’s not as consistent. As the network is still in its public trial phase, there are still certain spots in the existing areas with 5G coverage that still are not covered, though we believe this will get better over time.

With how well 5G fared in our test, we have to say that switching over to a 5G network is definitely a good upgrade to consider. Yes, it works above ground for now, and are mainly outdoors, but being able to shave up to ⅔ the time it takes to download a large file over 4G is a boon worth paying for.

As with the roll-out for 4G, it will take some time to have 5G indoors, and even on MRT stations and in trains but the sharp improvement in speed makes 5G an exciting service to have

You might also have noticed how the upload speeds for some of the 5G speed tests are slower compared to 4G. This is mainly due to the fact that StarHub is still progressively rolling out its 5G NSA network around Singapore, while the network provider has been providing 4G services for the past eight years. If StarHub is already able to hit these impressive speeds so early, we can’t imagine how much better it will get in the months and years to come. 

For now, the 5G NSA public trial offers users a glimpse of the future and it looks incredibly promising. 


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