5G Speed and Pricing: Spotlight on Romania

  • Gerard Kearney Avatar
  • Frederik Lipfert Avatar
By Gerard Kearney, Telecoms Consultant
and Dr. Frederik Lipfert, Chief Executive Officer
Updated on July 6, 2021
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Romania has earned a strong reputation internationally for its fast 5G service, in addition to its already well-established fixed broadband performance. But are Romanian 5G consumers forced to pay exorbitant prices for their data as a result? Speedcheck investigates.

Romania has attracted global attention from industry experts in recent years for its fast broadband, which now competes with the best in the world.

In this Speedcheck report, we present the results of our detailed investigation into both the state of 5G performance in Romania today and its pricing. Our speed analysis is based on the accumulative test results of our many users in the country, while our 5G pricing evaluation is the outcome of our study into numerous 5G operators’ SIM-only price plans.

Speedcheck’s investigation reveals that one of Romania’s 5G networks is producing exceptionally high speeds, while another 5G network is not trailing too far behind. Furthermore, we found that the pricing for 5G data is not at all predatory but, to the contrary, is reasonable for the high quality and performance that customers are experiencing.

For completeness, we also look at Romanian's fixed broadband service, which has been developing consistently over the past 15 years to deliver speeds that are also ranked high globally.

Download Speed

Speedcheck carried out a previous global study in May 2021 focusing on the relationship between the speed customers experience and the price they pay per GB of data. This relationship metric is represented by Speedcheck’s unique “Speed-Price Index” expressed in Mbps/$/GB, which strongly indicates the value for money consumers are getting.

In that study, Romania was ranked 18th in the world . The median mobile speed as measured by Speedcheck users in Romania was 22.57 Mbps, while the average price per GB paid was $2.66 (PPI adjusted).

Speedcheck uses the median speed value because it represents the performance most broadband users experience.

5G download speed

However, when we performed a deep dive into the test results, it turns out that the country has two remarkably high-speed 5G networks. Vodafone’s and Orange’s 5G networks have catapulted Romania into second place in the world for 5G download speed, according to Speedcheck’s user test results.

Global Top Ten Countries for 5G Download Speed

It is also noteworthy that while Romania is only slightly behind the fastest in the world, namely, South Korea, it is streets ahead of the third-place ranking, Russia, with 260.22 Mbps.

The disparity between the 22.57 Mbps for the national mobile download speed and the soaring 388.51 Mbps 5G download value is because the 5G test results account for only 10% of the overall measurement tests performed by our users. Consequently, the 22.57 Mbps median value (or the middle value of a set of test values) does not reflect the peakiness of the 5G results.

That said, the 10% 5G test results hold great significance and merit in themselves and bode well for the future of Romania’s 5G service performance.

The results reveal that while Vodafone is achieving 342.08 Mbps for download, Orange reaches well beyond that with an inspiring 480.69 Mbps. Again, all values are median across Speedcheck users’ tests.

When we look at the 90th percentile (the top 10% of test results) for download, Orange delivers 756.75 Mbps while Vodafone yields 464.07 Mbps.

5G price plans

When 3G arrived on the scene some two decades ago, most mobile operators chose not to differentiate the service they provided based on the new radio access technology. The product and marketing people generally treated the 2.5G (EDGE) and 3G radio access technologies simply as one “bit pipe” with their maximum affordable speeds.

With the advent of 5G, things began to change. Many operators now actively differentiate between their 5G service and their 3G and 4G service. They do this not by charging more for 5G upfront in the price plans but by using other fine-tuning network and pricing mechanisms.

For example, while they may allow all price plans to have access to both 4G and 5G networks, they sometimes might artificially and permanently limit the speed on 5G on the lower-end price plans. Alternatively, they may allow a different maximum data quota on 4G versus 5G.

But not all operators allow access to 5G for customers who have 5G phones. Many now require customers to have a dedicated 5G price plan for 5G access. This means that a consumer who upgrades their phone to 5G may also have to upgrade their mobile plan/contract to allow 5G access.

So, what about Romania?

Orange Romania

Well, we start with Orange as it seems to be pioneering an impressively fast 5G network. Looking at the Orange Romania website, we were glad to find at least one SIM-only price plan that does not penalise 5G consumers. Here is one good example .

Orange Romania SIM-Only “Smart” Price Plan Incorporating 5G

First, we note that the prices are reasonable by European and American standards, although quite high by Romanian standards given that its Purchasing Power Index (PPI) is 42.3% that of the United States.

Second, there is unlimited data available on 3G, 4G, and 5G networks to the Orange customer on their home network, although there is a cap on data usage while roaming in the EEA.

Third, while there is a stated maximum speed, this is not artificially limited by Orange. Instead, it is the estimated maximum speed of their network that they can promote according to EU regulations. I defy anyone to claim that 1,200 Mbps download on 5G or 355.6 Mbps download on 4G is in any way limiting or restrictive. These are very impressive maximum speeds and more than sufficient for nearly all Internet consumers’ needs.

Furthermore, for upload, the maximum speed on 5G is 100 Mbps while 4G is 47.5 Mbps. Again, nowhere near being restrictive.

Finally, this SIM-only price plan is based on a rolling monthly contract which is music to the ears of all digital nomads who will not be tied into lengthy 24-month contracts when they may only want to stay in the country for six months or a year.

But this is not just for digital nomads. This price plan and speed performance from Orange delivers reasonable value for money with excellent service all around for all mobile broadband consumers.

Vodafone Romania

But what about Vodafone’s 5G network?

Well, just as Vodafone 5G speeds are good but fall short of Orange’s superior speed, so too their typical SIM-only price plan falls short of the value for money that the Orange “Smart” price plan provides.

Vodafone Romania SIM-Only “RED” Price Plan Incorporating 5G

Although Vodafone's "RED" mobile plan price point is comparable with Orange's "Smart" price plan, the first significant drawback we notice is that two of the Vodafone options do not allow access to their 5G network.

And while the top two “RED Infinity” plan options do allow both 4G and 5G access, the maximum speeds for download and upload, while significant at 500 Mbps and 50 Mbps, respectively, fall well short of those promoted by Orange.

Again, as with the Orange Smart price plan, these Vodafone maximum speeds are not artificially imposed by the operator but represent the estimated maximum speed their network can provide, which they can promote according to EU regulations.

As for data volume, the top three options within this price plan offer unlimited data.

Finally, the Vodafone RED price plan comes with a 24-month contract, which does not suit everyone.

Telekom Romania and Digi Mobil

By way of comparison, we must briefly look at the other two leading providers in Romania: Telkom Romania and Digi Mobil Romania.

Telekom Romania descends from the Romanian incumbent state-owned telecoms company in the late 1940s. While it also offers a mobile data service, its flagship “Unlimited” mobile price plan does not include 5G, only 3G and 4G.

And while the price point is much lower than Orange’s or Vodafone’s, ranging from €2/month to €13/month depending on the option, its maximum speeds are quite moderate. Download top speed is 150 Mbps on 4G and 21.1 Mbps on 3G, and upload maximum is 50 Mbps on 4G and 4.6 Mbps on 3G.

On the other hand, Digi Mobil Romania offers quite an interesting 4G and 5G service package.

Digi Mobil Romania SIM-Only “Optim” Price Plan Incorporating 5G

The first highlight we note about the Digi “Optim” price plan is that it offers exceptional value for money with price plan options ranging from €2 to €5 a month. Granted, it does not come with unlimited data. However, 50GB on 3G and 4G, and 80GB on 5G, should be enough for most people’s day to day needs.

That said, should the monthly data allowance be exceeded before the end of the month, although there are no extra charges for data the consumer uses beyond that point, both download and upload speeds are greatly restricted.

While the maximum speed allowed does not emulate Orange’s, nevertheless for the low price point, 600 Mbps download on 5G and 100 Mbps on 4G should be enough for many broadband users’ needs.

Finally, it has a monthly subscription which is also appealing to many data users.

Fixed broadband download speed

From the speed tests performed by the users of Speedcheck across 122 countries, Romania is ranked 17th in the world for fixed broadband download speed. Within Europe, it is ranked 12th. It beats the United Kingdom, Finland, Italy, Austria, France, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Romania: Speedcheck’s Global Fixed Broadband Download Speed Ranking

These stand-alone results are impressive by any standards and are noteworthy in demonstrating how Romania has punched above its weight to produce a world-class national fixed broadband service. If we were to calibrate this speed metric against the country’s GDP per capita, Romania’s European and global ranking would be even higher.

Furthermore, the median speed is meagre for the 10th percentile (bottom 10%) of our many users’ speed test results performed throughout Romania, while that of the 90th percentile is also relatively low. When looking at these two metrics alone, Romania drops several places in the global ranking. This is a good indication that the quality of service of the fixed broadband network is not peaky but instead displays a measure of consistency throughout the country and across different types of customer subscriptions.

However, on a salutary note, while some analysts have ranked Romania’s fixed broadband among the top five or six in the world, Speedcheck believes the median value that we use is more representative of the national broadband service as a whole. The median value eliminates the fewer top-end and lower-end peaky values to give a more authentic picture of the national performance across the board for most users’ experience.

This in no way takes away from Romania’s achievement in producing a world-class fixed broadband service. It only serves to qualify it by proposing that some claims that it is among the very fastest broadband networks in the world for fixed download speed may be overstating it.

Upload Speed

The growing importance of upload speed

With 500 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube alone every minute of every day, or 720,000 hours of video a day, upload speed is becoming an increasingly important metric in the modern digital economy.

Countless people are making a living from the monetisation of their online podcasts and video logs (vlogs). They are making a lot of money from advertisements, sponsorship, and subscriptions on platforms such as Patreon. The categories of content they upload are endless, from the frivolous to the sublime.

Business users also employ the services of these platforms to market and promote their products and services. At the same time, digital nomads want the freedom to efficiently upload their work or projects from the country they happen to be living in at any point in time.

Such uploads can be quite data intensive - many YouTubers’ vlogs can last an hour or more. Also, not forgetting that many of them choose to upload each video to multiple platforms, including BitChute, and not just to YouTube.

Therefore, the faster the upload, the more time they have for productivity. Upload speed is money.

Furthermore, digital nomads are always on the lookout for the best country to live where they can carry out their remote online work effectively and at low cost. Romania would undoubtedly be high on their list of destinations.

5G upload speed

For 5G upload speed, Romania leads the world.

Global Top Ten Countries for 5G Upload Speed

With such high speeds, podcasters and YouTubers are no longer dependent on fixed broadband to upload their content but can also readily rely on 5G, either alone or in parallel with fixed broadband.

Orange also pips Vodafone for upload speed with 52.37 Mbps against Vodafone’s 50.15.

The Orange and Vodafone 5G networks provide a viable alternative to fixed broadband, or a second upload mechanism for those who post their content online to multiple platforms. Of course, they can also use fixed broadband for this, but with superfast 5G they are not limited to that.

Fixed broadband upload speed

Global Top Ten Countries for 5G Upload Speed

Romania’s world-leading reputation is restored for upload speed, coming in at 6th position in the global ranking and 4th in the European ranking.

Again, building on the theme that upload speed is fast becoming an essential part of the modern digital economy, Romania’s fixed broadband service stands alongside its 5G mobile broadband service as among the top performers globally. Not only a paradise for digital nomads but a place where all digital consumers can feel lucky to live.

So, what has made Romania compete with the best in the world on fixed broadband? Many industry experts agree that a pioneering Romanian company called Digi Communications N.V. was instrumental in this task.

Digi Communications, which was rebranded with this name after the merger of several cable TV companies and Internet service providers, were pioneers in rolling out fibre to the home (FTTH) across Romania. According to the Wikipedia article on the company, “the vast majority of its subscribers are connected via fibre, a process which started in 2006. This has had a major contribution to Romania’s status as a country with one of the highest fixed broadband internet speeds in the world.”

Digi also expanded internationally to provide services in Hungary, Spain, and Italy. The Digi Mobil service in Spain has grown exponentially over the past number of years and now provides one of the best value mobile services around.

There is no doubt that Digi’s pioneering spirit lies behind much of the incredible fixed broadband speeds that Romanian consumers enjoy today.

Conclusion

It is both exciting and refreshing to witness Romania not only compete gallantly in the highly competitive world of global telecommunications but go on to beat some of the formidable top competition in the world.

While its domestic fixed broadband network has already proven itself to provide excellent performance, its 5G networks, especially Orange’s, are fast becoming a standard to watch as they look like beating all competition in the future.

Furthermore, its pricing is by no means predatory but instead, on balance, varies from good to excellent value for money. Orange prices are a little steep when adjusted for the lower Purchasing Power Index of Romania, but Orange Romania is the one that is building what could become the fastest 5G network in the world.

All in all, Romania is a country that can be proud of its achievements and is pointing the way for others to emulate in the provision of cutting-edge broadband services to the consumer at affordable prices.


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