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450% Faster – Ookla Reveals UK 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019 (7:56 am) - Score 15,028

New data from internet speed testing giant Ookla (Speedtest.net) has shown how well early 5G mobile networks – including EE (BT), Vodafone and O2 – are performing across England, Scotland, Wales and N.Ireland. Overall the new mobile broadband tech is more than 450% faster than older ones, albeit not as impressive for uploads.

As usual we have to start with the caveats. At present 5G technology has only just been introduced and as such its coverage is still quite limited, with EE having the strongest availability due to going live a couple of months ahead of Vodafone and they, in turn, are also ahead of O2 for a similar reason. Meanwhile Three UK has only gone live with a dedicated mobile broadband service (not Smartphones) and thus is not yet being included.

The early deployments won’t have many users and so their backhaul capacity will not be under the same sort of strain as existing 4G networks. On top of that the three initial operators only have access to a fairly small 40-50MHz slice of the 3.4GHz band, which will seriously limit their top speeds until Ofcom releases several more bands in 2020 (existing 4G services have access to much more spectrum across several bands).

Despite these limitations it’s notable in Ookla’s report, just as it has been in other tentative early studies of the same operators (examples here and here), that early 5G networks are still able to deliver significantly faster average mobile data speeds than existing 4G services. Likewise there isn’t currently a vast performance difference between the regions.

NOTE: The “All Mobile” results below largely reflect existing 4G networks, possibly with a small influence from 3G in areas where 4G coverage is poor.

Average UK 5G Speedtest Results (Mbps)

  5G Download 5G Upload All Mobile Download All Mobile Upload
United Kingdom 176.00 19.24 31.23 11.25
England 177.41 19.35 32.22 11.37
Northern Ireland 171.60 23.11 23.89 10.96
Scotland 175.05 15.76 30.66 11.38
Wales 176.69 18.25 30.69 10.50

Clearly download speeds are significantly faster (more than 450%) on 5G than existing networks, although upload speeds were only between 38.5% and up to 110% faster (not as good but still a noteworthy improvement). In terms of the regional performance by network operator it’s perhaps no surprise to find that EE leads the pack (likely benefiting from wider availability and better access to fixed backhaul capacity).

Average UK 5G Speeds by Network Operator (Mbps)

Operator 5G Download 5G Upload 5G Top 10% Down 5G Top 10% Up
EE 205.02 19.17 359.66 34.85
O2 159.48 17.28 261.32 27.55
Vodafone 140.15 19.36 230.57 32.97

Ookla also includes some results for latency (measured in milliseconds where a lower figure is faster), which found that EE’s 5G network produced a latency time of 25ms, while O2 was similar on 26ms and the best latency came from Vodafone on 21ms. By comparison we’re familiar with seeing 4G networks that have latency times of around 38-50ms and so there’s a fair improvement, which is good news for faster paced multiplayer game fans.

On the other hand the target latency time for 5G networks in a mobile environment is generally sub 10ms and clearly there’s still some work to do on that front, although networks do mature over time and this will hopefully improve once we’re a few years down the road. Equally it should be said that Ookla’s own server responses may be adding to the latency figures.

Finally, Ookla also includes a short comparative report on the 4G speeds by different network operators, which helps to put the aforementioned 5G performance into a little more perspective.

Average UK 4G Speeds by Network Operator (Mbps)

Operator 4G Download 4G Upload 4G Top 10% Down 4G Top 10% Up
EE 42.91 12.69 91.71 29.39
Virgin Mobile 35.67 13.12 67.45 29.73
Vodafone 33.32 12.92 75.76 25.57
Three 24.11 11.49 54.17 23.87
O2 22.95 10.04 49.97 19.17

One point that should be noted is just how much faster 5G is, on average, than Openreach’s (BT) previous generation of fixed line Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) based broadband ISP technologies. In the past fixed lines have usually retained a small to modest performance lead over mobile but we’ve seen that eroded with 4G and now 5G threatens to exceed it.

The inherently slow pace of deployment for new full fibre (FTTP) networks means that 5G may in many areas find itself looking much more attractive than some fixed line equivalents, especially with “unlimited” usage allowances having now become an industry norm for mobile.

Virgin Media can initially counter this with their Gigabit speed upgrades but it’s a bigger threat to Openreach (they’re still dominated by FTTC that tops out at 80Mbps) and 5G’s future direction is also headed toward Gigabit speeds, which may eventually even threaten Virgin Media. Only time will tell how all of this pans out.

Leave a Comment
27 Responses
  1. Avatar Mal

    Speeds are not really living up to the hype really are they..

    • Avatar Neb

      What I expected. 4G launch hype was similar.

      Have to say was suprised at the low upload speeds – isn’t it meant to be symmetric’ish?

    • Avatar David

      No – I am getting 215Mbps right now on my EE 4G phone and it’s middle of the day – come later tonight and into the night it;ll hit 450 easily. No 5G here yet but I am not in a bother to know it to be honest.

      As said above – it was the same sort of flop when 4G came – but it got better so 5G should too.

      I’ve said before – my Brother In Law is a field tester for root Metrics and he did Cardiff – He sometimes tells me what’s going on but unless it’s in my area it’s kinda boring lol

    • Avatar David

      This is mine – but it’s always slower on 6Ghz hotspot than on the phone itself – anyone know why?

      https://www.nperf.com/r/3223887113381630-tzsYdjeS nat bad for mid day around here

    • Avatar David

      5Ghz hotpsot even!

  2. Avatar mike

    There are very few people with 5G-capable phones, so of course the 5G networks will be fast right now. Also those 5G speeds are achievable on 4G. Even on Three, which isn’t the fastest, I can get 100Mbps or more.

    • Avatar Ryan

      On 4G+ as long the area your in got enough available network capacity you can match and beat EE AVG 5G speed.

    • Avatar David

      Yes – please see my above post.

      I have a Note 10+ 5G but that was only to future proof – so I get 4G right now unless I wander into a few towns away and even then it’s not as good as the 4G+ I currently get.

      I have a leased line coming to replace the mobile soon – the phone is one I borrowed.

  3. Avatar Aleksandr Metslov

    Omg, omg, omg! Mobile networks are able to achieve 5% of theoretical 4G speeds!
    Even greater news coming next!
    Empty 5G network is able to achieve 0.5% of theoretical speeds!
    Lucky bastards (5G users).
    Sad news predicted ahead: usual 25 kbps speeds are living expected as more users will start migrating to 5G networks.

    Shocking news! Mobile networks operators never were able to reach even 25% of theoretical speeds, and won’t reach in the foreseen future. Apparently, they have no idea, that they need higher speeds transferred to mobile antennas.
    Not everyone, of course, just UK. Full of self importance as always.

    • Avatar Jules

      Yes… Thanks for that. Do keep us informed of your ramblings.

    • Avatar Phil

      Leave the UK bashing out it’s totally uncalled for.

    • Avatar Adam

      Aleksandr’s comment is borderline ramblings. However, the sad truth is he’s absolutely correct.

      I get 2 – 3mbps on my 4G connection in Cambridge. Travelling around the country I rarely see more than 10mbps. I’m on Three.

      These speeds advertised are hugely disappointing because in reality once the networks are oversubscribed it’s going to be exactly the same as 4G with an extra 5mbps if we are lucky.

  4. Avatar Mike Kiely

    It would be useful to report on the bits per htz observed and the amount of spectrum being used per cell and segment. The capacity of the cell, the intended backhaul to the cell. When can we switch to using ‘Throughput’? Speed ought to be a near constant.

    OR, thankfully, are removing ‘superfast’ from their vans.

  5. Avatar Munar Yılmax

    I’m currently getting a consistent 250-450mbps(down), 20-30mbps(up) & 7ms-9ms ping on a 5G home broadband connection with Three. Very happy with it!

    • Avatar David

      That’s good – according to Three “You’ll be living a life less lagged, so no more excuses why 12 year olds keep humiliating you on Fortnite.”

      Clearly whoever wrote that has never seen a 12yd old on Fortnite – they are brutal and fast!

  6. Avatar I eat spaghetti

    Until 5G becomes ubiquitous and capless then it may as well not exist for most. Most people’s mobile usage is YouTube and browsing for which 20mbps is totally fine, the point at which 5G becomes useful is when people can use it for their home broadband connections.

    • Avatar David

      Have you been living in a cave!? I agree it’s not everywhere but 5G IS “Capless” (or unlimited as the modern world calls it) AND it’s being sold as home broadband from the very start! So it’s being sold as Unlimited Home Broadband (and we before the first phones came out)

      As they say – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad?

    • Avatar David

      Also 20Mbps is fine for YouTube? the first 4K video you come across – well all I will say is good luck with that.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      If you have a close look at the number of lamp posts that sprout antennae in the 5G trial area you get some idea as to what it involves to give good full spectrum 5G radio.

      Really this is only meaningful if we know which bands were used.

      5G is hybrid tech with the highest frequencies/speeds only covering short distances.

      This is why I chuckle when anyone say rural 5G kills FTTP
      Over long distances I can’t see any technical reason why 5G is better than 4G/4G+ – OK except the ability to support more users.

      And if you want real 5G in rural you need a LOT of fibre to support that.

    • Avatar Adam

      Personally I’d rather see lower latency and 20mbps than higher speeds.

      It’s latency that makes the internet “feel” slow, especially when browsing through sites.

  7. Avatar I eat spaghetti

    15Mbps is the recommended minimum for 4K but most of the things people watch on YouTube either aren’t in 4K or don’t benefit from it, especially on a 6inch or less sized screen.

  8. Avatar A_Builder

    “One point that should be noted is just how much faster 5G is, on average, than Openreach’s (BT) previous generation of fixed line Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) based broadband ISP technologies. In the past fixed lines have usually retained a small to modest performance lead over mobile but we’ve seen that eroded with 4G and now 5G threatens to exceed it.”

    Well strangely FTTC was pushed out just ahead of 4G

    If we dredge back in our memories BT did run their Race To Infinity. Which really should have been named Race To Stay Slightly Ahead of 4G…….although that was supported by Begging_Bowl_@……

    So @MJ does make a very good point that OR had to invest to retain some degree of relevance but it might be solar behind that curve that fleet of foot 5G operators such a 3 might sneak in and grab the user prize.

  9. Avatar ABC

    Meanwhile in NZ 10gb fibre for home is trialled. Don’t you just love how forward thinking our politicians are.

  10. Avatar Johnf

    Disappointing numbers on an unused network. I was expecting more in the 300-500 mbps range.

  11. Avatar Jonny

    Is this early days and it’s going to get better, or is this early days and it’s just going to get more congested? 20Mbps upload doesn’t make this the ‘fibre killer’ that a lot of the hype has been about.

  12. Avatar Shaun

    enjoy beying microwaved 450x more than you get with 4G

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