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EE and Three Battle for Title of UK Fastest Mobile Broadband Operator

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 (4:14 pm) - Score 1,011

Mirror mirror on the wall.. RootMetrics has today published their “midyear” (H1-2014) report into mobile operator performance across the United Kingdom, which has seen O2, EE, Three UK and Vodafone all battle it out over areas including service reliability, call / text performance and Mobile Broadband speeds for Internet access.

Sadly the full report, which is based on 920,346 tests conducted over 25,522 miles across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, appears to make some of the same mistakes as earlier updates by failing to separate out 3G and 4G network performance and not stating the service speeds in Megabits per second (Mbps). Readers must instead attempt to guess the performance of each provider based on a very general ‘1 to 100 points’ system.

mobile_operator_performance_h1_2014Generally there’s not a lot to choose between the operators in terms of call and text performance, with almost all scoring around the 85-90 points mark.

However the story in terms of reliability and mobile Internet performance is a little bit different (see the right-hand illustration for the United Kingdom’s overall results), with EE and Three UK battling it out at the top and Vodafone left to languish at the bottom with O2 sitting nearby.

Being ISPreview.co.uk we’re naturally more interested in Mobile Internet (broadband) performance and so we’ve taken a closer look at that particular aspect across the different states of the United Kingdom below.

England
1. EE (86.8)
2. Three UK (83.2)
3. O2 (69.4)
4. Vodafone (69.1)

Wales
1. Three UK (80.6)
2. EE (80.6)
3. Vodafone (56.3)
4. O2 (53.8)

Scotland
1. Three UK (81.4)
2. EE (76.1)
3. O2 (58.5)
4. Vodafone (56.2)

N.Ireland
1. EE (85.8)
2. Three UK (80.0)
3. O2 (51.9)
4. Vodafone (49.6)

As ever it’s no real surprise to find EE dominating in England, which is the largest of all the states and also where the operator has rolled out most of their “superfast” 4G (LTE) network. EE’s 4G platform has also benefitted from having a year’s head start by virtue of being able to use the existing 1800MHz radio spectrum band, while the rest had to wait many months for Ofcom’s auction of the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands to conclude.

But having said that it’s interesting to note that Three UK, which was also the last to introduce a 4G service at the very end of 2013, has managed to tie EE in Wales and beat them in Scotland. Equally Three UK also manages to come within only a few points of EE’s score for England and N.Ireland, which is surprising given how far ahead EE has been in previous studies.

In terms of ‘Megabits per second’, all we can do is recommend that readers take a look at RootMetric’s recent city report for Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester in England (here). Unlike today’s report we did manage to get both upload and download results for those, which curiously showed O2 to be in a much more commanding position than they hold in today’s study.

We expect the balance to level out as EE’s rivals slowly reach a similar lever of 4G coverage.

Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Avatar gerarda says:

    Their testing does not include anywhere with a population of under 500, so the results are pretty meaningless if you live or drive in the countryside.

    1. Avatar Alec Robertson says:

      In that case, EE and Three will have the best 3G coverage as they share sites, whilst O2 and Vodafone will have the best 2G coverage (their coverage is basically identical).

  2. Avatar stephen says:

    I would agree that Three are the best in Scotland, they have very impressive blanket coverage in rural areas, many of which they are the sole 3G providers. I would say they are not as fast in the cities as EE but then neither are O2 or Vodafone.
    Also, Three have bucked the trend of starting with the biggest cities and working down from there, they seem to have taken a more sporadic approach, so cities like Aberdeen & Dundee have already benefited from this and have 4G in parts already. For all we know it could be another year before O2 and Vodafone release theirs, I think all their secrecy will cost these 2 many customers in the end.

    1. Avatar ShadyCreek says:

      I agree with you here. I have just transferred my number from O2 to Three today because of poor service. Cannot believe how much improved Three is in the areas I spend the most time (both city and semi rural England).

  3. Avatar hmm says:

    shame about ee mobile service coverage gone from goood to utter crap

  4. Avatar Owl. says:

    Pity they don’t battle it out for customer service(or lack of it.).That’s my 50p pence worth anyway(or not in the case of EE)

  5. Avatar Shane says:

    If you target cities that’s fine, but as previous mentioned not all of us live in cities nor do we want to.

    I can understand it being beneficial for business, but when will us countryside folk get something good

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘countryside’ – we got Three 3G, then Three 3G+ (DC-HSPA) and now also have EE 4G and Vodafone 4G.

      But then although this is a rural area, it’s 4 miles from the nearest town and 6 miles from the second-nearest. The EE upgrade came with the upgrade in the next nearest-town.

      This is probably more beneficial for the operator to accomplish than upgrading an area with only say 100 properties which is 15 miles from the nearest town and nowhere near any major road.

  6. Avatar Andy says:

    How about battling over who can provide the largest data cap, or even better no data cap!

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