Our Madrid-based GlobalData Tester was equipped with 5G SIMs from three of the largest Spanish 5G network providers: Movistar (Telefonica), Orange and Vodafone.

We sent our Tester out to 15 key tourist and business locations across the city to run two series of 5G and 4G speed tests, both over a weekday and a weekend period. All tests were run over Apple’s latest iPhone 12 device, together with the Ookla Speedtest mobile app.

To get a sense of the scope for download speed variance within a single location, our Tester ran three sets of tests for both 5G and 4G networks for each provider, with a one-minute resting period between each test – a total of 540 tests over the course of both testing days.

Madrid 5G coverage imperfect but well compensated by 4G

As anticipated, 5G coverage across Madrid is location sensitive, and differs from one network to the next. However, Madrid does indeed appear to be well supplied: Our Tester was able to pick up at least one 5G signal in all of the 15 locations tested, with the exception of the Madrid Stock Exchange – a curious anomaly, given that financial districts across the world’s capital cities are usually prioritized for 5G build-out. However, almost a third of all locations produced a 5G signal from all three networks, indicating strong overall 5G coverage within key areas. And lastly, in those locations in which our Tester was unable to pick up a 5G signal, good 4G coverage compensated.

5G speed promise justified

Download speed, the most important metric for the mobile video streaming experience, is generally operators’ headline selling point for 5G. With few truly compelling consumer 5G applications or mass market use cases available today, most 5G network operators have been forced to headline their 5G marketing pitches with a ‘faster’ downstream promise – and looking at the Spanish consumer 5G marketing campaigns, that is indeed the case.

In several locations, operators’ 5G signals produced a downstream speed between five to ten times faster than the operators’ corresponding 4G signals. In almost all cases, the 5G test results were significantly faster than the 4G.

Vodafone 5G beats rivals for both 5G speed and coverage

During our test phase, the Vodafone 5G network outperformed its rivals in terms of highest speed, but also on high-speed coverage, followed by the Orange network, see Chart 1.

Our tester successfully picked up a Vodafone 5G signal in 12 of the 15 tested locations, an Orange 5G signal in nine and a Movistar 5G signal in eight.

The highest 5G speed recorded during our series of tests was 1079 Mbps, on the Vodafone 5G network at the Puerta del Sol, one of the busiest and most famous of Madrid’s many public squares.

Another takeaway from our testing round is that Madrid’s key tourist and sporting locations are especially well supplied with 5G – its business and public administration centres, less so.

Like all live network tests, however, it’s worth remembering that results can vary from one test to another, due to the Tester’s physical distance from the 5G tower, the network’s traffic load, time of day and other factors.