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Three UK Delivers the Best 3G and Vodafone the Best 4G Mobile Speeds

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014 (12:39 pm) - Score 2,431

A new study of Mobile Broadband (3G and 4G) performance across the United Kingdom, which was conducted by consumer magazine Which? and OpenSignal, has found that Vodafone had the fastest 4G (LTE) based Internet download speeds over the past three months (13.21Mbps) and that’s somewhat better than the average fixed line ADSL home broadband connection that clocks in at 7.4Mbps.

The study, which was based on 67,699,697 data points extracted from 39,294 users of the OpenSignal app, also found that Three UK delivered the slowest 4G speeds but they were still able to come top for 3G performance with a score of 4.45Mbps (Megabits per second). In fairness, Three UK also offer their 4G service at “no extra cost” and their flexible data allowances tend to attract heavier users, which could be putting a bigger strain on capacity.

Fastest UK Mobile Operators for 4G Data (Download Speed)
1. Vodafone 13.21Mbps
2. EE 11.78Mbps
3. O2 10.50Mbps
4. Three UK 8.95Mbps

Fastest UK Mobile Operators for 3G Data (Download Speed)
1. Three UK 4.45Mbps
2. EE 3.96Mbps
3. Vodafone 3.48Mbps
4. O2 2.92Mbps

Interestingly the report also concludes that 4G speeds have almost halved in the past 12 months (falling from a peak of around 19Mbps in 2013 to 10Mbps now), which is said to be down to more people adopting the service. Meanwhile 3G speeds have actually increased from around 3.3Mbps in 2013 to a little over 4Mbps now.

This may all be correct, but in 2013 4G coverage was very limited, with only EE having made any real progress. As a result we’d say it’s more of a normalisation, not least with O2, Vodafone and Three UK’s deployment initially offering slower speeds when they were first introduced towards the end of 2013 (i.e. the 2013 results were primarily from EE’s initially underutilised network).

The report also found that Three UK generally appeared to have the best overall 3G coverage, which was followed by EE, O2 and Vodafone. Likewise 3G coverage is best in London, with the South East and West Midlands (England) also comparatively well served. On the 4G front it’s EE that has the best coverage, which isn’t surprising given that they had around a year’s head-start (Oct 2012) on their rivals by using the existing 1800MHz band. The others had to wait until mid-late 2013 to deploy 4G via the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands.

Overall, for both 3G and 4G coverage, London is the best place to be and Wales the worst. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Ofcom are currently preparing a much more detailed report on mobile broadband speeds and coverage in the United Kingdom, which should be out soon-ish.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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