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Opensignal Examines 5G Speeds at EE and Vodafone UK vs Rivals

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 (9:00 am) - Score 3,575

Opensignal has taken another brief look at 10 mobile operators offering 5G based mobile broadband speeds in the UK, USA, South Korea and Australia to see how their performance compares. Overall even the early 5G deployments are significantly faster than 4G, but download speeds at EE and Vodafone are trailing a bit.

The reason for their focus on just ten operators is because those all launched their commercial 5G service roughly six months or more ago, which is why we don’t get any data for O2 or Three UK (they’re much more recent). The measurements for these results were all taken between 31st January and 30th April 2020 (we assume they’ve included operators by counting back 6 months+ from January).

As you might expect, given the limited availability of such new networks, most consumers with a 5G capable Smartphone still spend the vast majority of time connected to their operator’s older 4G network. For example, in the UK, Vodafone has a 5G availability score of just 4.4% and EE hits 6.1%. The operator with the highest 5G availability is T-Mobile (USA) on 19.8%, while the weakest was Verizon (USA) on just 0.5%.

The analysis itself found that all ten operators saw much faster speeds for their users on 5G compared with 4G, with speeds between 18.4 times and 1.7 times faster on 5G. However, average 5G download speeds also varied widely, ranging between 506.1Mbps on Verizon down to 47Mbps on T-Mobile in the USA. The two UK operators were in the bottom half of an admittedly very small table.

opensignal_avg_5g_vs_4g_speeds_by_operator_april_2020

As usual there are some big caveats to all of these differences, which might have shown up better had Opensignal included more details for each operator in order to give the correct context, not least in respect to network coverage and spectrum band allocations. The absence of any information about upload performance and latency is also a touch disappointing.

For example, in the UK, EE and Vodafone can only access a small slice of 40-50MHz spectrum frequency in the 3.4GHz band, while other countries can harness multiple bands to deliver faster speeds. Similarly the two USA operators with the slowest 5G speeds – T-Mobile and AT&T – could only access a smaller chunk via lower bands at 600MHz and 850MHz respectively.

NOTE: Ofcom UK are expected to auction off the 700MHz band and more frequency in the 3.6-3.8GHz band for use by 5G later in 2020.

Many early 5G networks are still in their infancy, can lack key features (may vary between countries) and have only very limited levels of coverage (usually centred on busy urban areas). Lest we forget that app-based crowd-sourced data can also 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.

Nevertheless Opensignal are one of the better outfits at putting such data together.

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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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4 Responses
  1. Avatar Tom

    SKT and LGU+ always lead the way with any new mobile tech. Surprising to me though is Verizon’s top spot. They only launched their Ultra Wideband Service which means that the speeds are of course extremely good but in very limited situations with line of sight etc so is it really that accurate?

    LGU+, SKT maintain the high speeds all over their coverage areas, as does EE and Vodafone in the UK.

  2. Avatar Bored Panda

    What kind of world is it when Australia has faster internet than we do ?

    Highly predictable of course that we would have slow 5G, while telling ourselves that we’re at the forefront and a leader of all things 5G. Hopefully one day ofcom will stop acting like the godfather who’s palms you have to grease before you can get enough of the spectrum, to offer a mildly decent service to your customers.

    • Avatar Matt

      Canada also has better mobile communications than we do, however its a different place, the geography is different, the population density is much lower than ours, I also found when living in Canada that prices for data where very high compared to UK and much of world this makes people use it differently thus freeing up network capacity.

      The UK also has a lot of different rules and regs in place when it comes to mobile and fixed internet connectivity, phone towers out in North America stood ridiculously high and when coupled with higher broadcast power and lower frequencies (600-850) they broadcast far and wide. (I mean solid 4G (LTE) in the middle of nowhere)

  3. Avatar Jamie Simms

    Vodafone in the UK are getting a little left behind by EE and soon 3 with 5G, Vodafone still continue to cover only the Western side of the country and instead of mast sharing in the East they have decided to build all new separate masts which obviously all need new planning before building and then will all need backhaul installing so in all honesty i cannot see much new Vodafone coverage until Early-mid 2021.

    It will be interesting to see how this policy affects Vodafone when the new Iphones launch in Sep-Oct as I can see many customers not choosing Vodafone due to the lack of 5G coverage, the network themselves no that they cannot keep up with the other operators as that is why they always include 5G roaming in their adverts to make it look more appealing but I am sure most UK customers would rather have 5G in Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield and Coventry than in Seville,Milan and Munich

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