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EE Top as Tutela Reveal UK Fastest 4G Mobile Operators for Q4 2018

Friday, January 18th, 2019 (12:10 am) - Score 5,154

The final study of 2018 from crowd-sourced data analysis company Tutela has revealed that EE beat Vodafone, O2 and Three UK to be named as the fastest overall Mobile Broadband operator in the country for 4G services. Meanwhile Three UK managed to top the table for older 3G networks.

As usual the research was conducted by gathering anonymous usage data from the background of 1,500+ supporting Android and iOS based Smartphone apps (conducted throughout December 2018), which produced a total of 33 billion measurements, 889 million records, 8.57 million speedtests and 305 million response tests.

Overall the results revealed some improvement since our last update in September 2018. For example, EE delivered the fastest overall download speeds of 24.18Mbps (up from 21.38Mbps) and uploads grew slightly to 10.87Mbps (up from 10.1Mbps). Latency times for the operator also improved from 33ms to 22ms (milliseconds – a lower figure is faster).

Sadly O2 and Three UK continued to languish at the bottom, although both have improved their performance and we hope to see a bigger rise from O2 as their new 2.3GHz band continues to expand (more spectrum tends to result in faster speeds, provided capacity and carrier aggregation is optimally used).

Overall Download Speeds for Q4 (Q3 in brackets)
1. EE 24.18Mbps (21.38Mbps)
2. Vodafone 18Mbps (16.7Mbps)
3. O2 13.52Mbps (12.86Mbps)
4. Three UK 9.73Mbps (8.81Mbps)

The full table of December’s results – including latency times, jitter and packet loss – can be found below. You can also compare this against the Q3 data here.

Tutela UK 4g and 3g mobile broadband speeds december 2018

Remember that some networks, such as EE, have better geographic 4G coverage, more spectrum bands and a more advanced network setup than their rivals, although Vodafone aren’t far off. Similarly operators like Three UK may suffer more strain on their data capacity (congestion) because of affordable “all-you-can-eat” style data plans, which are a capacity hog but also make them attractive to consumers.

On top of that testing via non-dedicated apps may be less accurate than dedicate solutions (e.g. Opensignal). Crowd-sourced data can also be affected by the user’s location and 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.

Going forwards it’s entirely possible that the situation with future 5G mobile networks could change the current trend, not least with the likes of Three UK appearing to stockpile 5G friendly spectrum bands. But the first limited commercial deployments of 5G won’t start until later 2019 and it will be further into 2020 before this starts to deliver any serious coverage.

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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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13 Responses
  1. Mike says:

    The main problem with Three at the moment seems to be the lack of carrier aggregation which means if you get stuck on the 800Mhz band the speeds are generally poor.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      They are in fact rolling CA technology out (seemingly years after Vodafone and EE), although at present the coverage is limited.


    2. Name says:

      Three is generally poor, thats why they are cheap. IT is not only about data, but also voice doesn’t work somtetimes in crowded places like airports or public events like funfair.

  2. Jack says:

    Does speed really matter on your mobile? I get it in central London it will matter (I got 1mbps max on Virgins 4G in Goodge street). But elsewhere as long as all the providers have a minimum of 3mbps on 4g and 3g then coverage is mainly the bigger issue. Speed is more for fixed hone internet.

    1. mike says:

      Of course it matters

    2. Chris says:

      Speed = capacity.

      3 and O2 have lower speeds, so users are therefore far more likely to end up with an unusable connection in congested areas

    3. SimonR says:

      Speed should matter, but if coverage isn’t consistent then – to me – speed is irrelevant. If I can get 30mbps in one place, but .25mbps in another, then I can’t trust the speed.

      If I can’t trust the speed, then all of my activity is bound by the lower value. What’s the point of me using, say TuneIn on a commute if it’s going to drop out several times?

      That’s what’s interesting to me about the report – Mark states…

      “Crowd-sourced data can also be affected by the user’s location and any limitations of the device being used, which won’t have a common type of hardware for helping to form a solid baseline.”

      Which is more about real life values to me. Of course you’re going to get people with dog-awful hardware skewing things, but there’s little point in being on 4G if several places one goes still struggle to claw a 3G signal.

      Just my opinion, obviously.

    4. Ann Onymous says:

      Speed and latency are extremely important, not just for the here and now, but for the future of what becomes possible using cellular technology. There are many things we may not have dreamed possible that start to become a reality when extremely low latency meets very high data speeds on connected ‘things’. In fact, we are still coming up with possibilities.

      The backhaul & frequencies a network deploys are also critical to the experience you have using data. Speed doesn’t necessarily equal capacity, backhaul certainly does. Speed however helps with capacity as if you are on and off the local cell very quickly, you free up capacity for others much quicker than if you are chuntering along downloading at a slow speed, hogging bandwidth.

      Backhaul is the fibre or ‘pipe’ that runs from the cell site back to the core network, and carries your data traffic. Some providers (EE) are rolling out 10GB fibre backhaul to carry your future 4G/5G data, some (Voda I believe) are rolling out 1GB, and others still utilise copper services in many places. This is why the sentence below is an important take-out of this article:

      “Remember that some networks, such as EE, have better geographic 4G coverage, more spectrum bands and a more advanced network setup than their rivals”

      Bars on a phone are the worst indicator of network performance. It’s the core technologies, spectrums and backhaul that networks use that dictate your experience, and these things take years of planning, deployment and investment to get right.

  3. Packet Switched says:

    Speed: are we talking using a mobile for voice or data?

    If it is Voice, provided you can talk to someone all right, speed is relevant only as as a proxy for availability.

    If it is Data, speed is most relevant to give you a chance to grab what ever you want and get it downloaded if the signal is
    intermittent – which it typically is if you are travelling in a vehicle.

    Using mobile signals for data when out and about I have a “min”l sized pad for data on Three which seems to work fine
    and is excellent value for money and a small smartphone for voice on EE with some data for when I need to talk and when
    there is no signal or no useful signal on Three.

    Data seems poised to take off big. (On 4G the speed is often times that of my broadband line.)
    It is a fair point that the ability of mobiles, pads, dongles and laptops to pick up signals must vary but
    there does not seem to be much information on this. I presume the bigger the device that is is receiving it
    could have more aerial or aerials & that presumably the people who supply dongles would take a bit of care the
    picked up signals pretty well.

    In the end you just want it to work soundly.

    1. Joe says:

      While i’ve never done any detailed testing there is a wide variance between devices and signal strength (or actually stability)

    2. Name says:

      Speed: are we talking using a mobile for voice or data?
      Both. A lot of people use WhatsApp, Signal, Skype, Telegram, etc. to make international calls. With unreliable data this is almost impossible. I used to be Three customer, and that was a nightmare.

  4. Spog says:

    Speed on mobiles is becomming a larger problem as more and more people are removing their landline and relying only on mobiles especially for lower income families.

    1. John says:

      I don’t blame them after on Virgin broadband for over 9 years every year my bills goes up by 5 pounds now only pay £10 AYCE

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