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Opensignal Find UK Still Slowest for 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds

Friday, September 13th, 2019 (9:46 am) - Score 2,113

Crowd-sourced analyst firm Opensignal has today updated their early real-world benchmarks of 5G based mobile broadband networks across 12 countries (i.e. those that have launched the service), which reveals that the United Kingdom remains the slowest of the early adopter countries (599Mbps UK vs 1815Mbps USA).

Opensignal’s original study in July was only based on data gathered between 1st April to 30th June 2019 (here), which meant that for the UK they were only including results from EE’s early network. By comparison the latest update has added several more countries (12 vs the original 8) and the data period has been extended to 1st September 2019 (i.e. likely to be including a little data from Vodafone and Three UK’s recent launches).

The fact that the UK comes bottom of the table with an average download speed of 599Mbps (up slightly from 569Mbps in July) is not exactly a positive outcome, although there are some important caveats to consider and these appear to be shared by other European operators (Spain, Romania, Germany and Italy show similar performance).

Obviously these are tentative early deployments with limited coverage and few users (small data samples). Likewise Ofcom has only released the 3.4GHz spectrum band for use in UK 5G services (more will be auctioned off in 2020). By comparison the top countries are able to harness several bands simultaneously (Carrier Aggregation), including some mmWave bands, which tends to result in much better urban speeds.

Admittedly Three UK has a lot more spectrum than their rivals in the 3.4GHz band (i.e. 100MHz vs 40-50MHz) but they only went live on 19th August and so aren’t yet likely to have had any a real impact below (here). On this point we wish Opensignal would split the results by each operator.


As above, we must not 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.

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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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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11 Responses
  1. Tim says:

    Anyone know if 5G in the UK is TDD or FDD?

    There is a tool that can calculate the theoretical maximum capacity:- https://5g-tools.com/5g-nr-throughput-calculator/

    1. Connor says:

      We’re using TDD

  2. André says:

    Any relation to a lack of decent Fibre Backhaul infrastructure in the UK?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Not yet as it’s all in dense urban areas, where finding optical fibre for your cells is less of a problem. However in a few years, as the rollout stretches into more rural areas, then that may become more of an issue.

    2. TheFacts says:

      Is there a lack of backhaul?

  3. Michael V says:

    The difference between the frequency bands are definitely going to make a difference. mmWave will certainly give much faster speeds but shorter range of coverage. When our four Operators get mmWave then this comparison will seem a bit more fair.

    However, it is good to have an early look at the current performance of EE’s network.

  4. Mike says:

    Surveys like this are pointless, doesn’t take into account the usage allowances/prices.

  5. 5G Infinity says:

    Vodafone in the UK has been tested [independently] at 770Mbps, which makes sense as EE only has 40MHz of spectrum at 3.5GHz whereas VF has 50MHz.

    Also speedtests on 5G non standalone have to take into account 4G and what is being used, eg 4G ADV Pro with 3 CA and 40MHz of 5G would give over 1Gbps, but you couldn’t really call it 5G.

  6. Leex says:

    This is to be expected really as we’re currently only really using the 3.5ghz ish band, not the crazy short range ones (above 4-50ghz) that need a cell every 100 meters or so

    1. Leex says:

      low latency and millimetre wave 5G we’re not going to see that for another 2 to 4 years (reasonably) as that requires a massive amount of investment in a silly amount of Mini high frequency 5G cells (probably mostly end up on street lights every 100-500m assuming they have line of sight to each other)

  7. Jake says:

    All this 5G is laughable when many rural areas are still awaiting decent 2G coverage.

    If they REALLY wanted to make an impact they should install gigabit capacity 5G cells in every housing estate and let people have ultrafast fixed wireless 5G routers.

    That would really make a massive impact on broadband. Why wait till 2035 for fibre to every premise when this could be done starting NOW and would satisfy me for sure.

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