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O2 UK’s Huge 4G Mobile Speed Boost from £524m Spectrum Spend

Monday, September 24th, 2018 (11:24 am) - Score 5,210
o2 uk

New research carried out in August 2018 by Tutela has claimed that O2’s recent move to splash £524m on a slice of both the 2.3GHz and 3.4GHz radio spectrum bands (here) has already given the operator an 80% mobile broadband speed boost, at least in the cities where 2.3GHz (4G) has been activated.

At present the 2.3GHz band is only being used alongside existing 4G networks, while the 3.4GHz band will follow in the near future when the first commercial 5G networks go live from around 2020. Many existing mobile handsets already support 2.3GHz and as a result O2, which aims to switch-on over 1,000 sites nationwide using the new 4G frequency by the end of 2018, has been quick to upgrade (here).

Naturally Tutela was keen to see how the new band had impacted O2’s 4G data (Mobile Broadband) performance and so they set about examining its deployment across the operator’s first six UK cities, which included the likes of London, Oxford, Nottingham, Leeds, Leicester and Coventry.

The research itself is based on crowd-sourced testing and was conducted by gathering anonymous usage data from the background of 1,500+ supporting Android and iOS based Smartphone apps. Overall it reported that subscribers in the aforementioned cities have seen “download speeds improve by more than 80%” when using the newly-activated 2.3Ghz band, compared to O2’s average 4G performance.

Tom Luke, Vice President of Tutela, said:

“Although it is still early days, Telefonica will be pleased to know its massive investment in spectrum is already starting to pay off in terms of a superior user experience in the first locations activated. The investment won’t just benefit O2 and its subscribers, but also subscribers to MVNOs like giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, Sky Mobile and Lycamobile who use the O2 network.

We have identified 650 different O2 cell tower sites which have activated this spectrum (with over 500 in London), which is an impressive rollout considering the new spectrum was purchased only in April this year.”

Previous studies have tended to show O2 as trailing some of their rivals for mobile broadband performance and as such today’s news will be a welcome signal of forthcoming improvements. But it may take awhile longer before the roll-out can truly influence their national performance picture.

O2 was the only operator to secure a slice of the 2.3GHz band in Ofcom’s auction, with Vodafone, Three UK and EE all appearing to be more focused on the 3.4GHz band (O2 also grabbed a slice of that for their future 5G services).

5g_auction_winners

We should caveat that testing via non-dedicated apps may be less accurate than dedicate solutions (e.g. Opensignal). Crowd-sourced data could also be affected by any limitations of the device being used, which won’t have a common type of hardware for helping to form a solid baseline. Suffice to say that performance testing like this may not always tell the whole story but it’s still a useful bit of extra information.

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

    Wonder if O2 MVNO’s will see a benefit…

  2. Michael V

    I’m not an O2 customer but it’s good to know they’re 4G networks will benefit. 800mhz & now 2300mhz

  3. Louis

    Well I hope the speed improvements come to Southampton. I get at best 5 mbit/sec atm 🙁

  4. Wujek Pawel

    As usual H3G bought least of all. Then they will blame others.

  5. Tim

    Hopefully rollout to areas outside of London happens quickly. Currently O2 is the slowest network. However I stick with them (through a MVNO) because they are the only one with indoor coverage (where I live).

    Next they need to increase their data limits!

  6. TheMatt

    O2 should be more concerned about fixing their horribly slow network than spending money acquiring new spectrum space. They have 4G now that often gives <10mbit and very often under <5mbit. And this is not just my experience.. it's what the regulator says too. Lately it has been dropping to 3G a lot as well in central London

    • Michael V

      Hi Matt. Buying this extra spectrum will enable them to improve speeds. They only have a small amount of low band spectrum which doesn’t give great speeds but is good for indoor signal, with this higher band, they will b able to provide better speeds. This is certainly an important step in improving LTE services. Hope that explains things a bit better.

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