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Comparison of UK 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds vs 11 Countries

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 (1:00 pm) - Score 5,472
5G Mobile Wireless Radio Mast

Crowd-sourced analyst firm Opensignal has today published new benchmarks of 5G based mobile broadband networks across 12 countries, which finds that the United Kingdom returns reasonable average download speeds of 133.5Mbps (vs 25.9Mbps on 4G). But we have the weakest level of network availability (4.5%).

The latest study is based on data collected between 16th May and 14th August 2020. As usual there are some caveats to this sort of information because crowd-sourced data (collected from an app) can still be impacted by any limitations of the devices being used and where the test has taken place, which at the same time removes the ability to adopt a common type of hardware (necessary to help establish a solid baseline of performance).

Despite this Opensignal normally does a fairly good job, although it’s worth noting that deployments in the United Kingdom are currently being hobbled by the lack of access to additional spectrum (most operators only have a small 40-50MHz slice of the 3.4GHz radio spectrum band), weak coverage and the recent decision to ban Huawei. On top of that the COVID-19 lockdown did little to help the deployment pace.

In short, 5G network coverage and performance across the UK hasn’t really changed all that much since the last Opensignal report in May 2020 (here) and most countries still do better than us. Admittedly not many countries have actually begun their commercial 5G deployments, so at least we’re out of the starting block.

Otherwise Saudi Arabia remains in first place on a staggering 5G download speed of 414.2Mbps (average) and availability of 34.4%, while South Korea jumps to second place with 312.7Mbps but their availability is weaker at 20.7% (below Hong Kong, Kuwait and of course Saudi Arabia).


Ofcom is currently expected to auction off some additional 5G friendly radio spectrum bands – 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz – in January 2021 (here), which should help to provide additional capacity for even faster mobile broadband speeds. Nevertheless, we’ll also be hoping to see an improvement in UK network coverage, which could be difficult for operators that were previously setup to work with Huawei.

Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Avatar Matt says:

    I will be honest, the speeds we see in UK are not good enough to call it 5G. 5G is a standard not a technology and until that standard is met we can’t call it 5G.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The 5G standard allows for 100Mbps in dense urban environments, as a minimum, but there are other areas where the UK implementations fall short (e.g. most operators don’t have access to 100MHz of spectrum frequency.. yet).


  2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Awful results for the UK there! So the best folks can expect from 5g here is what they “should” be getting from 4g IF it was implemented correctly.

    That isn’t 5g then folks, its a cop out!

    The fact the 4g average is 25.9Mbps when it should be 100Mbps+ makes me wonder how serious the carriers even are about 5g.

    And the spectrum available at least with 4g isn’t the limiting factor here. The spectrum carriers use currently “could and should” provide 4g download speeds over 100Mbps.

    It’s an easy cop out to suggest the limitation is always down to the last stretch “mast to router” when its been proved time and time again that bandwidth availability over the back-haul and across the carriers core is far more the limiting factor here.

    5g might be actually worthwhile in the UK in a decade, but until then (unless carriers get their act together) its going to be a marketing gimmick and nothing More.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      It’s the usual real-world results vs hype outcome. In fairness 4G performance across most of the countries isn’t spectacular, but then we are looking at averages.

    2. Avatar Dave says:

      It’s a case of good old RIP OFF Britain. UK companies want to fleece the government, screw over customers and make massive profits of technology not fit for service. From BT to BBC to Open Reach to Three – they are all LAUGHING THEIR WAY TO THE BANK – and they use any excuse.

      The vast majority of government funding goes into the Board of Directors back pockets, paying their luxury travel, bonuses and champagne parties. I would estimate less than 5% of their expenditure is actually put back into their networks and maintaining them.


    3. Avatar Marek says:

      Are you joking? Average 100mbs for 4G? Where you get that average, in Japan or South Korea?

  3. Avatar GNewton says:

    “But we have the weakest level of network availability (4.5%).”

    No surprise here. Too many wrong policies and wrong decisions in the past contributed to the current telecoms mess in this country.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      And it is a mess too isn’t it! Instead of throwing money at small scale fibre projects (which end up benefiting the few), the government would do better putting it to use to sort out the industry so it can actually provide scalable building of its infrastructure projects…..(Like it should have done with 3g and 4g implementation but didn’t.

    2. Avatar GNewton says:

      I think this whole lot should have been dealt with as a national utility infrastructure, rather than this cherry-picking, postcode-lottery style approach.

  4. Avatar MartinConf says:

    When the government are selling 5Mhz chunks of bandwidth in the upcoming auctions its only ever going to turn into a [censored] show.

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Yep, I’ve said all along 100mhz chunks per carrier was the way forward. But no, let capitalize on it for the governments coffers and offer nibbles of the cheese instead shall we?

    2. Avatar Sharon White says:

      Need to defrag on chunks!

  5. Avatar Dave says:

    Absolutely disgusting. UK networks are a disgrace.

    1. Avatar GNewton says:

      @Dave: Agreed. Perhaps organize local campaigns again to get better telecom services? We have a number of regular posters here on ISPReview who have enough experience for doing this, they already did it for fibre, in this backwards country 🙂

  6. Avatar Andrew Bate says:

    All Mobile company’s and all broadband providers using open reach network are technically contravening the trade descriptions act, as they are all selling products that may not work. I have a 5G phone in Plymouth and yet there is no 5G. I also pay £22.99 for faster fibre with supposedly average speed of 36 mbps. I am currently getting 1.8 mbps. Broadband and telecoms companies are ripping us of left right and centre. The government should set minimum download speeds for both mobile and broadband companies to adhere to, and if they can’t then the companies should be shut down.

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      Don’t go with penny pincher isps then…

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Not exactly a solution Mike. The problem is broadband is already becoming far too expensive. If it was implemented better and provided faster speeds people wouldn’t mind paying as much. The problem is we’re paying what we believe its worth. Which in the current state of UK 4g/5g isn’t very much.

  7. Avatar mike says:

    The 5g speed and congestion is open for interpretation. I am with the “smallest” network Three, and I get 5g with reliable speeds of over 500mbps downloads, I am not city based so have that advantage but realistically these high speeds mean nothing to the average Joe. Having a steady and reliable connection for the device and home to control your smart plugs etc doesnt mean you effectively need 1gbs a second. Having 100mbps will suffice. We get controlled by numbers that most people who comment wont ever need

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