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UK Slowest as OpenSignal Tests Early 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds

Monday, July 8th, 2019 (12:00 pm) - Score 8,887
5g mobile signal bars uk

Crowd-sourced analyst firm OpenSignal has today published the first results from their initial real-world benchmarks of 5G based mobile broadband networks across 8 countries (i.e. those that have launched the service). The highest maximum speeds were seen by 5G users in the USA (1815Mbps), while the UK scored the lowest (569Mbps).

On the surface this may seem like a poor outcome (assuming you think 569Mbps is slow) and we don’t yet know what the average speeds will become, although at the same time it’s also important not to read too much into these statistics and there are several reasons for that. Firstly, the only UK operator to have any kind of live commercial 5G service running during the testing window was EE (1st April to 30th June 2019).

Secondly, EE can only harness a 40MHz slice of the 3.4GHz spectrum band until Ofcom auctions off the next batch in 2020, while other countries (e.g. USA) have been able to harness several bands simultaneously (Carrier Aggregation). Some of those countries have also been able to use bigger frequency slices of 100MHz, which is somewhat of a sweet spot for 5G networks.

On top of that we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that none of the early 5G networks have many real-world customers (i.e. low network congestion – not very reflective of eventual take-up) and the initial hardware being deployed doesn’t always support all of 5G’s claimed capabilities. Suffice to say that 5G is in its infancy and when 4G first went live it wasn’t all that much faster than 3G but that did change.

On the upside the table gives some indication that even early 5G services can eventually become nearly 3x faster than 4G, once they get access to spectrum bands. In the USA they do make some use of higher frequency mmWave bands too, although we don’t expect to see UK operators harnessing those for awhile (most of the UK bands due for auction in 2020 are closer to those used by 4G).

opensignal 5g mobile broadband speeds benchmark

As usual there are other caveats to this sort of crowd-sourced data. For example, app-based crowd-sourced data such as this could be impacted by any limitations of the devices being used, which at the same time removes the ability to adopt a common type of hardware in order to establish a solid baseline of performance.

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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.
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13 Responses
  1. Avatar Garry

    Of course when 3 launch their service we should see major improvements

  2. Avatar Jarvis

    I have always found that the results I get from Open Signal compared to others are far worse. Of course this would be the same in every market, but just my opinion.

  3. Avatar SimonR

    What are Australia doing with their 4G?! I’ll have some of that.

    • Avatar StillWaitingForSuperFast

      Me too! We are only 50m from our 4G mast and we only ever see 90 MB/s at best. Usually its closer to 60 MB/S. Our modem is LTE CAT4 so the theoretical max would be 150 MB/S.

      Surely CAT6 LTE modems are the fastest currently available? (300 MB/S)although i see there were roadmaps for up to CAT14 (3900 MB/S)

    • Avatar Adam

      According to Samsung my note 9 has “cat 18” with theoretical speeds of 1200/200. I imagine there are a lot of devices out there capable of very fast speeds. All down to the carrier at the end of the day.

    • Avatar Mike

      It’s not just raw speed but other technologies like carrier aggregation in Cat6 that makes it much faster.

      Generally if you’re using Three you will find 4G+ coverage very patchy outside of major built up areas, but will be more generally available with other major network providers, especially EE.

    • Avatar Name

      There is also a matter of uplink to the mast. It doesn’t matter if the station is 6G+- while the uplink is 200Mbit/s.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @StillWaitingForSuperFast

      I’d be suspecting the mast is fed over copper.

      Maybe bonded FTTC.

      The giveaway is usually the 4:1 Rx/Tx ratio.

      Try testing it in the small hours.

    • Data / backhaul capacity is another issue. You can have all the bands in the world but if the cell / mast your signal is coming from doesn’t get enough capacity to feed its users with a good speed then that will also bring down performance.

  4. Avatar Mike

    Problem with these speedtests is they don’t normalize for data plan sizes, not unusual that more generous operators will have lower speeds.

    Unlimited @ 500Mbps is better than 100GB @ 2Gbps imo.

  5. Avatar Matt Finish

    441 maximum dowbload speed in the UK? Mine is 60MBps, which is still far better than fibre broadband at 44Mbps….(aluminium cabling).

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