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Ofcom Study Reveals Cat 6 4G Mobile Broadband Speeds in London UK

Friday, June 3rd, 2016 (3:12 pm) - Score 4,810

The national telecoms regulator has today produced an updated study of 4G based Mobile Broadband speeds in central London, which specifically looks at the performance impact of the latest Category 4 vs 6 (LTE-Advanced) networks. Once again EE wins the speed crown, but Vodafone are catching up.

The new report should be taken as a separate addition to the original Smartphone Cities study from March 2016 (full results summary), which looked at a number of other cities in the United Kingdom and only made use of the much older Category 4 based Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.

By comparison the latest update only examined central London, but it also harnessed the much more recent Category 6 LTE-Advanced capable Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ (model SM-G928F). This is the latest 4G standard and can cope with data speeds of up to 200-300Mbps (Megabits per second), which is something that only EE and Vodafone are deploying in big urban areas (the others have yet to clarify their plans).

The biggest performance leap is largely achieved through the use of Carrier Aggregation, which allows an operator to harness multiple spectrum bands (e.g. 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2.6GHz) at the same time.

Apparently this phase of additional testing was carried over a five day period in March 2016. The initial 4km radius used in the main testing was also replaced with a smaller 2km radius in central London (still within the original area). In addition, the centre for this was moved from Charing Cross station to Ofcom’s head office in Riverside House for logistical reasons.

central_london_4g_lte_advanced_mobile_broadband_speeds_2016_q1

Broadly speaking it’s no surprise to find that the two most mature operators (at least in terms of 4G LTE-Advanced coverage) – EE and Vodafone – both come out on top for both download and upload speeds; although EE are clearly the most dominant and also delivered almost symmetrical performance.

An EE Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“The great speeds that our customers are getting is down to the investment that we’ve made in adding more capacity to our network. These Cat 6 devices, which include big-selling smartphones like the iPhone 6s and the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, on the EE network are giving customers an amazing internet experience – fast data, great response times, and incredible reliability. And we’ll keep investing in more capacity across the UK to make sure customers on the EE network are always getting the fastest mobile speeds.”

By comparison Three UK and O2 are left to languish further behind, although that’s hardly surprising given Three UK’s distinct lack of spectrum and O2’s debt-ridden parent that could be holding back vital capacity investment. Right now only EE really has the spectrum / capacity to deliver a Cat 6 boost, but the reality of shared capacity between users is that you don’t get much over Cat 4.

On the upside all of the mobile network operators showed a similar and quite noticeable improvement in latency, which is good for online video game fans, VoIP, VPN and smoother browsing. Never the less this was only a very small snapshot of performance in one particular area and the methodology was different from Ofcom’s previous update, which highlights some of the challenges when testing rapidly evolving mobile platforms.

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. 3G Infinity says:

    …. and? Still no EE coverage at the Holiday Inn in Winchester – right next to Virgin’s satellite uplink centre and the Space Centre – frustrate’s the hell out of both customers and the hotel staff.

    1. Devonbloke says:

      What, not even 2G?

    2. arundel says:

      And there are lots more people in London than Winchester.

    3. Ignition says:

      Best shut off the trials and, indeed, the entire 4G network then. Can’t have other parts of the country on 4G while the Holiday Inn in Winchester doesn’t have coverage.

  2. qasdfdsaq says:

    Article seems to largely ignore the point of its own title – Cat 6 LTE; the article itself almost completely ignores the actual CA that Cat 6 is all about.

    For one, no mention is made of whether Cat 6 CA was actually used in any of the tests. In reality, EE is the only network in the results table that is actually using any amount of Cat 6 CA, all the other results are nothing more than measurement error and differences between the phone models.

    Another thing is only two networks are even capable of Cat 6 CA – EE and Voda, and evidently only EE had band 7 coverage in the test area. Vodafone has limited deployments as well, but the other two networks are in no way capable of it even if they wanted to.

    In related news, Cat 6 is not new nor is it an LTE network standard – it’s a handset standard and modern handsets are up to Cat 12/Cat 13 now – but again, nobody but EE actually has the spectrum to deploy it so everyone else will see no benefit – and isn’t even worth testing.

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