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New H2 2017 Mobile Network Study Ranks EE and Three UK Top

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 (8:21 am) - Score 6,920

RootMetrics has today released their H2 2017 study of 4G mobile network performance across 16 of the United Kingdom’s most populated metropolitan markets (cities), which predictably scored EE as the best overall network operator and they’re followed in second place by Three UK.

The report claims to have based its findings off 707,610 tests that were conducted using a Samsung Galaxy S8 phone, which supports the latest Gigabit LTE-Advanced (4G+) standards. The testing team also travelled more than 22,048 miles to measure performance, as well as visiting 649 indoor locations, and they claim that this “empirical testing covers 100 percent of the UK’s population” (we’re unsure on what basis they can make that statement).

Overall the summary report is fairly vague and as usual RootMetrics have boiled their data down to a simple score of 0 to 100 (i.e. the higher the score, the better the performance) via several different categories. Individual reports for each of the 16 cities, which contain a lot more detail, can be seen here.

EE comes out on top, which is partly because they have better 4G network coverage and more advanced technology than their rivals. On top of that they also own way more mobile spectrum. Previously Vodafone had been challenging them but they seem to have dropped away and now Three UK has become their nearest competitor.

Overall Performance
1. EE 93.7
2. Three UK 92
3. Vodafone 90.1
4. O2 87.2

Network Reliability
1. EE 95.1
2. Three UK 94.6
3. Vodafone 91.7
4. O2 90.4

Network Speed
1. EE 92.5
2. Vodafone 88.7
3. Three UK 86.8
4. O2 80.9

Data Performance
1. EE 96
2. Three UK 93.5
3. Vodafone 92.9
4. O2 89.3

Call Performance
1. EE 90.2
2. Three UK 89.5
3. Vodafone 85.6
4. O2 83.4

Text Performance
1. EE 96.8
2. Three UK 95.4
3. Vodafone 94.6
4. O2 94.1

The results would appear to spell bad news for O2, which is a Mobile operator that debt strangled parent Telefonica has been trying to offload for the past few years (back in 2016 an attempt to merge with Three UK was blocked by the EU and Ofcomhere). The only upside is that their scores haven’t changed much from the previous study (i.e. rivals have improved in some areas while O2 stood still).

Scott Stonham, General Manager for RootMetrics Europe, said:

“We’re starting to see that capital expenditure in the latest network infrastructure, such as EE’s investment in VoLTE pays off in the form of improved customer experience. According to IHS Markit research, capex is expected to grow moderately this year, and we will see the foundations being laid for fibre plant and 5G.

It will be fascinating to see how the operators balance the creation of the networks of the future and maintaining and improving existing infrastructure.”

All eyes will now be on Ofcom’s forthcoming auction of the new 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz spectrum bands, which the regulator hopes will help to slowly rebalance mobile spectrum ownership and this may give some of EE’s competitors a boost (assuming they’re willing to bid for a good slice of frequency). It’s likely that the 2.3GHz band will help to boost 4G, while 3.4GHz is being aimed more at future 5G technologies.

The downside is that it might take awhile before the new bands are actually put to good use, not least because the first 5G services aren’t expected to launch commercially until 2020 onwards. Another auction to keep an eye out for is the one for 700MHz, which is arguably even more important because Ofcom may attach a tougher coverage obligation to it and this band is useful for extending rural reach.

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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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14 Responses
  1. Peter Bull says:

    I think you should try again I had EE with plummet and canceled could not get a signal for phone at home in OXFORD

  2. Jackson Grant says:

    “On top of that they also own way more mobile spectrum”.

    Professional writer? I think the word you’re looking for is “significantly” not “way”. Also your underlying bias against EE is showing a touch. The article would be better served with a more impartial outlook.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Thanks for the feedback, even if it might be a touch on the petty side 🙂 .

      – “way more”

      Is a perfectly acceptable popular expression. I could have used a variety of different words to describe larger quantities of something but sometimes it’s nice to mix things up rather than adopt a robotic approach to language.

      – “underlying bias against EE”

      Please explain? The article praises EE for its “better 4G network coverage and more advanced technology than their rivals,” although this gap is narrowing as rivals catch-up. I call EE’s win “predictable” because of the above and the fact that they tend to come top in all of RootMetrics studies, plus many others.

    2. Mike says:

      Looks like we have a grammar nazi amoungst us.

  3. Darren Leonard says:

    What a load bullshit ee is the worst network ever customer service is bloody shocking

    1. Pedant says:

      Most mobile networks’ customer service is undeniably poor, but this article is specifically about coverage. There, EE clearly has a strong advantage compared to some of its competitors.

    2. Oleg says:

      “… ee is the worst network ever customer service is bloody shocking”

      Agreed horrid network and actually the worst coverage of all of them based on my experience and ofcoms own mapping of signal for my area of the country.

      Would not wish them on my worst enemy or ever join them again even if there were claims they were 10x faster than the competition. Nasty little organisation.

    3. Wujek Pawel says:

      As a past Three customer I would say: nothing is worse than Three with their lack of connectivity in crowded places.

  4. Onephat says:

    I’ve never had an issue with 02. Perfectly fast enough and rock solid signal here in Leicestershire

  5. Wujek Pawel says:

    First question here is: who paid for that tests?
    In Poland T-Mobile is ordering very similar tests to P3 Communication company every year and guess which network is the best year to year?

  6. WILLIAM says:

    Only wish that “Three” had better signal strength in my area (EH49 7RU) – as their customer service & all seems very good to me

  7. Kam says:

    Every time I visited one of my friend’s house in wakefield, he lives close to the city center and they always sit by the window to get one bar of signal, me being a gentelman and allow them to connect to my internet and give them a relief. Their network was three and few weeks ago they changed to giffgaff. Also we have been going to national forest for picnic, between Sheffield and Manchester and it’s a drop down about 10 meters from the Road all my friend’s with variety of networks about 7 of us all connected to my internet and I’m with O2. I believe O2 has the best coverage across the country.

  8. Grahan says:

    I recently switched from Vodafone to Three. I’m in the north west and Three is very good outside but as soon as you step inside you lose all 4G connectivity. That coupled with appalling customer service from their Indian call centres resulted in an accidental disconnect of my account (the guy could barely speak English) which they subsequently reinstated. They wouldn’t provide a broadband connection box to give me a signal at home so after a week I took my business to EE. Vodafone for me we’re great as are ES, Three were appalling in every respect.

  9. dave says:

    I just want 5G to hurry up already. The sooner everyone uses 700mhz for phone calls the better as that will allow for better signal quality. I’m a little surprised that no networks have announced switch-off dates for 2G and 3G, quite a few countries have already switched off 2G. 3G, 4G and 5G allow for calls using much better audio quality.

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