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EE Retains Lead as the UK’s Best Mobile Network for H1 2020

Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 (7:00 am) - Score 6,717

The latest biannual H1 2020 study of mobile network (4G and 5G) performance across the United Kingdom, which was conducted by RootMetrics, has once again named EE (BT) as the best overall operator. On top of that they delivered the fastest median (average) broadband download speed of 42.6Mbps (up from 36.5Mbps).

The latest study has, for the first time, been conducted by harnessing a batch of 5G Smartphones, specifically the Samsung Note 10+ 5G as purchased off the shelf from operator stores (earlier studies used the 4G based Samsung Galaxy S9). The data this time around will thus include some impact from early 5G deployments (currently only present in a few urban areas).

The testing itself was conducted during both the day and night across 16 of the UK’s most populated cities, while walking and driving. Overall a total of 537,780 tests were completed, including 22,082 miles driven and over 750 total places visited. Sadly, this means we don’t get a good picture of rural performance as that isn’t the main focus.

The study then splits its results into several categories (network reliability, speed, data, call and text quality etc.) and each was assigned a score out of 100 (higher numbers = better). In terms of the UK-wide results, EE came top of every single category and their closest rival remains Vodafone. Meanwhile O2 and Three UK continue to battle over the bottom two places.

Overall Scores for H1 2020 (vs H2 2019 Result)
1. EE – 95.2 (down from 95.6)
2. Vodafone – 90 (down from 94.7)
3. Three UK – 86.5 (down from 89.3)
4. O2 – 85.2 (down from 89.7)

Interestingly Vodafone, O2 and Three UK all suffered a big fall in their scores, while EE held relatively stable. Elsewhere Three UK leapt over O2 to take 3rd place. In terms of download speed, EE delivered the strongest showing on 42.6Mbps (up from 36.5Mbps in H2 2019), followed by Vodafone 19Mbps (down from 19.8Mbps), Three UK 14.1Mbps (up from 11.7Mbps) and O2 13.3Mbps (up from 12.5Mbps).


The study also includes a useful summary of how the new generation of ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband networks have impacted the results. On this front Three UK’s performance is impressive, which is thanks to their 100MHz block of contiguous spectrum (rivals only have a 40-50MHz slice of the 3.4GHz band). However, the reason why this didn’t help Three UK much overall is down to weak coverage (i.e. they were the last to start their full roll-out and that was just as COVID-19 became a problem).

Summary of 5G Performance by Operator

* EE offers broad 5G availability and strong 5G speeds: EE was the only operator with 5G in each of the 16 cities we tested in 1H 2020, and the operator’s 5G coverage was relatively broad, with 5G availability above 21% in 12 markets. EE’s 5G network was also consistently fast, clocking impressive 5G median download speeds of at least 103.9 Mbps in all 16 cities.

* O2 offers limited 5G availability in four UK cities: We recorded 5G results for O2 in 4 of the 16 cities we tested in 1H 2020, and the operator’s 5G availability was quite low in each market. O2’s highest 5G availability was just 0.6% (in Belfast). In the other three cities in which O2 registered 5G results, we didn’t collect enough test samples to accurately characterise its 5G median download speeds. That said, we expect O2’s 5G network to expand over time.

* Three shows impressive 5G speeds: We recorded 5G results on Three’s network in 11 out of 16 cities, and the operator recorded very impressive speeds in several markets. Three clocked the fastest 5G median download speed of any operator at 193.7 Mbps in Leicester, while also registering the fastest 5G maximum download speed at 478.1 Mbps in Liverpool. That said, Three’s 5G availability was relatively limited, ranging from 1.0% to 15.4%. As a result, the operator’s 5G speeds haven’t made a notable impact on its speed interval results or to the speeds that Three users will likely experience on an everyday basis.

* Vodafone’s 5G shows impressive speeds but limited 5G coverage: We recorded 5G results on Vodafone’s network in 10 of the 16 cities we tested, and the operator’s median download speeds were faster than 112 Mbps in 9 of those markets. While Vodafone’s 5G availability was relatively limited, the operator’s performance in London was noteworthy. Keeping in mind that Vodafone’s 5G availability in London was just 5.2%, the operator delivered the fastest 5G median download speed in the city at 181.8 Mbps.

The RootMetrics study also gave a result for each operator’s aggregate median mobile broadband download speed across each of the four UK nations – including England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


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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.
Leave a Comment
11 Responses
  1. Craig says:

    I’m pleased with Vodafone but concerned with 24 months for a sim only deal.

    1. Leex says:

      In WA4 post code area, vodafone is considerably faster then ee

      with ee they have very specific spots where it gets into high 90 to 200mbs speeds (but outside of them areas its typically under 10-20mb/s)this is on 4g only

      where as Vodafone 100mbs can at times be the norm (if I do a speed test) but norm ranges above 40mbs consistently over most areas when streaming (even in Lymm Vodafone seems to produce a reliable enough data connection for streaming to stay working when I go in and out of that area)

      Three data I find is under 1-10mbs but to add to the problem unreliable packet delivery sometimes

      O2 can’t say as I need to get a real o2 sim card (I have giffgaff but o2 traffic shapes the crap out of them)

      I don’t have a 5g phone yet (also Altrincham really need some love it’s like all network providers up there only have 3 masts covering the area ultra low signal and low data speeds and low data reliability, maybe some old person on the local council is rejecting mast installs)

    2. CJ says:

      Vodafone still offer 12-month sim only contracts, they’re practically giving them away at the moment if you can be bothered with claiming cashback by redemption from an independent dealer.

      Eg. 12 months 60GB for £7.50 without entertainment or £11 with. The 24-month unlimited contracts are also very cheap after cashback.

      Not much use here in the O2-controlled zone though, where Vodafone 4G is slower than their 3G H+ signal.

  2. Michael V says:

    Think for 4G, EE will always be at the top.
    One of the others will certainly knock them off the top spot on 5G.
    I’m happy with Three, not the fastest but coverage is more important. And that’s what I’ve always got.

    1. Nathan says:

      Three 5G as reported were the fastest. Now we will start seeing a change for once. No more EE and Vodafone domination.

  3. Rich says:

    Three will have the fastest 5G network that will put them at the top, but this will take time eg 4/5 years before we see any real decent 5G coverage. unfortunately they have limited coverage and there 4G speeds are shocking at the moment
    Three really need to work on the 4G network if they want to compete with the big boys, you can’t have a fast 5G network and a slow 4G network.

  4. Stephen Wakeman says:

    How is it that EE win so often, and how is it that their median speeds overall are in the realms of almost twice that of their nearest competitor? Is it all down to the amount of spectrum they hold?

  5. Terek Drotter says:

    For 4G, I have found EE to be more consistent with their speeds. It has been at least 15-20Mb in most places I have visited. Very rarely do I come across an oversubscribed cell with sub standard speeds. Sometimes I will even get 100Mb+! It’s a complete contrast with Three.

    I will stick with 4G for now until the networks have rolled out a dependable and reliable 5G network combined with a decent range of 5G phones. Too early for me to go there.

  6. Ashley Scott says:

    I’m just not half as trusting when it comes to Rootmetrics now. I live in Hull and left Three for EE on Rootmetrics advice thst EE was the best network for Hull. This was in May, and I can tell you for sure after looking into this extensively and testing both EE & Vodafone in several areas of Hull ( S20 Ultra 5G & A70 ) Vodafone takes it hands down for data, averaging 20mbps vs EE’s 12mbps, Vodafone is also better for data indoors, and they are on par with voice calling. Both EE and Vodafone struggled to maintain a dbm better than -100 out of City Centre, but this wasn’t everywhere, some places both surprisingly had a dbm of -75 – -90. So, as a real user testing day to day for 10 days at several different times, Vodafone is the better network in Hull. I will day I did test O2 & Three ( mainly A70 ) and Three had the better voice calling signal but the data speed was very poor, averaging around 2mbps outdoors in some areas. So EE and Three h both have 5G availability in Hull ( using the same mast/towers/monopoles network through radio sharing ) and in this area, both EE and Vodafone 4G+ ( carrier aggregation ) was faster almost everywhere than EE 5G, and in most cases than Three 5G, though Three 5G is good in City Centre only so far. I will leave it here as I could talk about this forever lol. So, if your in Hull and/or East Riding, Vodafone is without a doubt the best network for you as a whole ( especially data speed and performance ) As a result of my real life testing i have now ended my 18 month Unlimited Smart Sim Only contract with EE ( free of charge thankfully ) and now have the equivalent Unlimited plan with Vodafone as my main point of contact ( although 24 months long for some reason ) and I also have a 30 day rolling with Three ( 100GB for short term use to test 5G )

  7. Jack P says:

    SMARTY mobile works very good for me. they give one month free and cashback for unused data

    I ordered SIM and got it after 2 days. It works perfectly. Coverage and Internet speed is really fine in Leeds area. I’ve been using it in many European countries – no problem with roaming and internet.
    I used a referral link and got one month free.
    If you want get a free month you can use this link: (delete spaces)
    http :// referme .to/nySSwPx

  8. Julian says:

    O2 can’t traffic shape GiffGaff that much if in the centre of Harefield in Greater London I can get a 90Mbps speedtest.net result on just a 4G signal on my OnePlus 5T in the centre of the village. Previously I have only seen speeds around 100Mbps on GiffGaff on 4G+ capable transmitters in locations such as parts of Datchet, Berkshire.

    On the other hand on the beach in Eastney (Portsmouth) in the summer on multiple occasions I could get no data service when the beach was busy despite a strong 4G signal being shown on the handset. This is all down to data overloading of masts with insufficient capacity for peak time traffic.

    So what’s the point of 5G when the capacity of 4G masts in many places isn’t vaguely adequate at busy times and 5G cells have a much poorer range than 4G ones. I also can’t see how 5G will happen ón any country roads outside towns or villages that don’t have street lights on them……..

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