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RootMetrics H1 2018 Study Name EE and Three UK Best for Mobile

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 (12:01 am) - Score 6,689

The latest “scientific” H1 2018 examination of 4G and 3G mobile network operator performance across the United Kingdom, which was conducted by RootMetrics and IHS Markit, has today seen EE and Three UK come top with a quality score of 96 and 93 out of 100 (respectively).

The report claims to have based its findings off over 593,008 tests, which were conducted using unmodified Samsung Galaxy S8 Smartphones purchased from carrier stores (these support the latest Gigabit LTE-Advanced 4G+ standard). As part of that the testing team also travelled more than 20,928 miles and visited 654 indoor locations to measure performance.

Sadly O2 (Telefonica UK) found themselves at the bottom of the pack again on a score of 86.6 out of 100 and that’s down on their H2 2017 score of 87.2 (here). By comparison their rivals all either stayed the same or reported a mild improvement.

Overall Performance Scores for H1 2018 (H2 2017 Result)
1. EE – 96 (up from 93.7)
2. Three UK – 93 (up from 92)
3. Vodafone – 90.1 (unchanged from 90.1)
4. O2 – 86.6 (down from 87.2)

However on areas like network reliability the margins are even closer, with EE boasting a 97.6 mark and Three UK scoring 96.5. Similarly Vodafone is creeping closer to EE for network speed and data performance, while Three UK and O2 both lagged behind.

Scores for Other Categories

Network Reliability
1. EE 97.6
2. Three UK 96.5
3. Vodafone 92.2
4. O2 91.6

Network Speed
1. EE 91.8
2. Vodafone 86.9
3. Three UK 82.9
4. O2 73.1

Data Performance
1. EE 96
2. Vodafone 92.5
3. Three UK 92.1
4. O2 86.4

Call Performance
1. EE 95.6
2. Three UK 93.8
3. Vodafone 86
4. O2 85.6

Text Performance
1. EE 99.1
2. Three UK 96.8
3. Vodafone 96.6
4. O2 96.6

Equally EE may dominate overall network performance across the UK, but Vodafone is said to have scored higher in Northern Ireland and Three UK is competing with EE in Wales.

Kevin Hasley, RootMetrics Head and Exec Director at IHS Markit, said:

“EE’s reputation for delivering strong speed and performance is maintained in our testing; whilst Three’s consistent reliability places itself as another leading carrier across the UK.

The first movers in 5G are going to have an advantage as consumers will see a big step change in performance of their devices across critical functions like live streaming video. EE’s high performance in 4G testing can lead to a seamless service transition to 5G; however it will be a brand new playing field once the technology is live. 5G will give all networks an opportunity to be a leader in performance and service provision.

However, 5G is most likely to impact urban area performance as it will be deployed in centres of high population density. Operators will still need to prove and maintain 4G and even 3G performance across wider geographies as that’s how we use our phones. We accept that when on the move and in more rural locations that performance will be lower, but we still have expectations about minimum performance.”

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s (EE) Consumer Business, said:

“We have relentlessly invested in improving our customers’ experience of our network. We’re connecting customers in more places than ever before, more reliably than ever before, and with the fastest data speeds in the UK. We’ve been driving forward the UK’s mobile infrastructure for five years, and we’ll keep going – with 5G launching next year to raise the bar yet again.”

The report concludes by talking rather optimistically about the roll-out of 5G technology in 2019, although it should be noted that most operators will only have very limited trial networks live between the latter part of 2018 and the middle of 2019.

Meanwhile a full scale commercial deployment won’t really begin to take place until 2020 because that’s when Ofcom is expected to release most of the necessary spectrum, not to mention that the availability of vital hardware will have also improved.

So we do expect to see some 5G in 2019 and maybe even the start of a limited commercial roll-out at EE, yet most of those early deployments and trials will focus on fixed wireless connectivity instead of mobile services. As such it’ll still be awhile before the mobile deployment gets into full swing and then several years until the country reaches a strong level of national coverage.

The first 5G services will almost inevitably attract a premium price and initial speeds will be better than 4G, albeit not spectacularly so (performance will take time to mature, just like 3G and 4G before it).

Separately EE has today said that they’re boosting speeds to people in Cardiff, Hull, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London by introducing Five Carrier Aggregation (5CA) technology, which also turns some of the old 2G and 3G airwaves (e.g. 2100MHz) into 4G ones.

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Mark Jackson
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
17 Responses
  1. Avatar Mike says:

    Having tested out EE recently they will be my first point of call if Three ever boot me off my old n cheap AYCE contract, having LTE+ almost everywhere with VoLTE (can set phone to 4G only) is a nice luxury.

    1. Avatar Michael V says:

      Hey Mike. I’m wondering, what phone do you have? Didn’t think there were anyway phones that have LTE only setting… Yet!

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      Android, you can use the 4G Switcher app on the Play store.

    3. Avatar Michael V says:

      @Mike. Thanks for telling me about 4G Switcher, it’s great. I noted the network type option the app 1st highlights & switch between that and LTE only.
      Three are now deploying voice over their 1800mhz network around Cardiff, which means I don’t have to worry about missing calls. I’ve also seen VoLTE on their 3G band. [I use LTE discovery] that’s how I know when phone is on VoLTE/Supervoice or 4Gdata – that’s now seeing Voice over it.

  2. Avatar Neb says:

    Just moved from BT mobile (EE network) to iD (Three network). No longer got consistent coverage and slower speeds. From travelling in my job, mobile networks have always been roulette in all ways. EE network are best for me.

    1. Avatar Scott Walker says:

      You may have an outage or issue in your area. Call customer service and explain your problem. The team will raise an incident request and investigate. All the best.

  3. Avatar Simon says:

    EE yes – for sure but Three? Hmm. Granted they use the latest handsets (well mostly)

    My BIL is a testing engineer for RM- Im going to ask him how much of this, if any is fluff.

    1. Avatar Simon says:

      Try getting a decent signal outside Three’s HQ – good luck!

  4. Avatar Jake says:

    Hang on.. Rootmetrics did a lot of testing for EEs 4G when they launched so they have agreement with EE and are going to be biased. Also three won loads of 5G spectrum recently I read in the newsthat will make them the biggest 5G network over EE in the next few years.

    1. Avatar Bob says:

      Ha ha LOL … don’t believe any of your post – suggest checking your facts first prior to posting. Three won the least amount of spectrum in 5G auction, although they did pay the least and you get what you pay for …..

    2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I believe Jake is also alluding to the fact that Three have a lot more 5G viable spectrum from their other purchases, such as the acquisition of UK Broadband Ltd. from PCCW, as well as Ofcom’s auction.

    3. Avatar Michael V says:

      Hi! I believe Three have a huge chunk of around 145MHz of spectrum that they can use for 5G-NR, In Frequency bands 3.0 GHz to 4.0 GHz. Most of that came from buying another Company. They’re gonna do well with that. But they still need some low band Frequency, that’ll be from the next auction.

  5. Avatar Mark Blaxland says:

    What a laugh. Ratings for 3 customer services would go through the floor.

    1. Avatar Michael V says:

      Hey Mark! It has been poor in previous experience some years ago. But for a while now I’ve always had great service from them & any issues are sorted quickly. They’ve really improved.

  6. Avatar Michael V says:

    I live in south East Wales & Three’s coverage has improved, especially with VoLTE.
    I visited mid Wales recently & was not without signal the whole time I was there. It was all mostly VoLTE, but it’s made a huge difference. I found that my friend was lacking EE service at times but not very often. I think Three have done really well & wouldn’t change to any other MNO.

  7. Avatar Robert Francis says:

    I moved from 3 to Vodafone in November 2017. Unless 3 have radically improved since then. I’ve made the right decision. Vodafone are far superior where I live in South Wales. Even in town centres I had no signal with 3.

  8. Avatar Ruft says:

    3 lol rubbish speeds in cities like London sub 2 meg or less Vodafone I get 40mb in london.

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