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Report Finds EE’s UK Mobile Network Still Best for 5G Broadband

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 2,784
5g signal

A new study from mobile benchmarking firm RootMetrics, which exclusively examined the latest network availability and mobile broadband speeds on 5G operators in the UK, has found the EE still “continues to lead the way” on both fronts. Meanwhile O2 seems to be lagging behind their rivals.

The new report examines how each operator’s 5G network performed across the 16 most populated metropolitan markets in the UK during the second half of 2020. As part of this the team harnessed a number of regular Samsung Note 10+ 5G Smartphones in order to conduct their tests and the overall results of that also fed into their recent biannual report (here).

NOTE: Most UK operators are currently only harnessing 5G in the 3.4-3.5GHz mid-band range, but Ofcom will shortly auction off more spectrum in the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands, which should help to improve network coverage and speeds (here).

Firstly, data reliability on 5G (i.e. reliability for both getting connected and staying connected long enough to complete the tests) was generally found to be “outstanding” for all operators (EE, Three UK, Vodafone and O2) in most of the 16 cities tested. Each operator delivered reliability success rates of at least 99.5% for getting connected in the majority of cities; Vodafone’s success rate of 94.7% in Bristol was the only low point.

Reliability was also found to be excellent in terms of staying connected, with all four networks recording success rates of 99.5% or better on 5G in most markets, with no operator recording a reliability success rate below 98.4%.

As for latency times (the response time of internet servers where a lower figure = faster), Three UK had the fastest latency of any operator in any city at 28.5ms (milliseconds) in London, while O2 was close behind with 5G latency of 30.0ms in Leeds and Bradford. Otherwise, the latency times weren’t that different from 4G, which is perhaps partly because most initial 5G deployments are still a hybrid (not true standalone solutions).

Finally, in terms of availability and mobile broadband speeds, EE topped the charts by achieving 5G availability above 25% in 12 UK cities and they were also the only operator whose 5G median download speeds surpassed 100Mbps (Megabits per second) in every city they tested. But that’s not too surprising as they were the first operator to start their rollout, while Vodafone followed a few short months later (O2 and Three took a lot longer).

However, we should point out that the fastest 5G median download speed in the UK, which hit 216.6Mbps, was recorded by Vodafone in London.

Rootmetrics 5G broadband speeds by uk mobile operator

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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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19 Responses
  1. Name says:

    With median download speeds we are closer to the reality. Now imagine more people using 5G and you’ll find speeds offered by 4G in it’s early days.

    1. Yoda says:

      Depends largely on how much the operators invest, at the moment most 4G masts haven’t been upgraded since their initial installation, I suspect after 5 years the situation will be much the same for 5G unless FTTP coverage massively improves.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    a complete shambles then as I suspected. If they’d invested enough to provide capacity for the speed increase going from 3g to 4g they’d be able to deliver a half decent 5g, instead they’ve copped out yet again and now top up the speed by dropping back to 4g when 5g is at capacity.

    What is the point of 5g when its only delivering what 4g should do exactly?

    1. Yoda says:

      The blame is mostly on the government for milking operators at auctions rather than setting the money aside for infrastructure investment.

  3. Essa Moshiri says:

    I agree with Yoda, the Swedish government while milking the operators they also forced both on coverage and bandwidth and this helped much with transfer speed and coverage.

    Just think about this, still today there is no Cell coverage in the Tube network? We are in 2020????

  4. Buggerlugz says:

    This report tells me that its completely pointless investing in 5G kit here in the UK. Especially so when 4G could (and should) already provide the very same speeds 5g is actually getting. Its like a continual game of catchup here in the UK where Radio access networks is concerned.

    I expect we’ll be on 7G here in the UK before 5G delivers the 1GB+ it should do then.

  5. Chris C says:

    Interesting to note the Three is still slower than rivals, looks around 20% slower – Despite their much trumpeted ‘wins’ in the spectrum auction

  6. Jimbo says:

    I don’t think 5G will be as good as it should be.The mobile network infrastructure is biggest down fall.
    Majority of masts have not been upgraded for 4 years plus,and in my area CV13 are still microwave point to point,with no fibre back haul.

    Its going to take years to upgrade mobile networks infrastructure.

    There was a fault on my local mast, reported it in June 2019 and was fixed in late August 2019.Then the fault reappeared September and fixed December!!
    You cannot rely upon some networks.

  7. Sam says:

    EE / BT are fraudsters. They always have very good speeds for showing to journalists and media. But ask any EE Essentials customer what speeds they get. Free bandwidth throttling and band removal. Will always blame your phone not their manipulation behind.

    1. Oggy says:

      That’s a helluva statement Mark is allowing to be published on his website.

      It wasn’t long ago he was censoring comments yet he is letting this one fly.

    2. Yoda says:

      EE Essential doesn’t have access to Band 20 and is capped at 60Mbps, unlike the more expensive Smart plans.

  8. Dmitri sampson says:

    Having used 3s 5g since it went live and deliberately going to live sites I found whilst very small where live speeds were good. Fastest test at Edmonton London 647mb!!!. I would note alongside threes 4g network is amazing 50mb+ in some but in many areas well overloaded barley 1mb in cities. Also 4g keeps flipping to 800mhz making 4g very slow when much faster speeds would be available. 5g coverage while great is far too small and 4g in many areas overloaded in summary.
    I now have bt mobile not so fast speeds in quite a few 5g areas 4g speeds but have seen 300mbs. The big difference is much much bigger coverage and both 4g and 5g in general reliable and works for real use. (for info I’m using hauwei mate 20x 5g)

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Erm….wasn’t 5g supposed to be 10Gbps?????

    2. Bubbles says:

      Buggerlugz no it was supposed to be max 1Gbps as we use NR 5G in the UK. mmWave can reach 10Gbps.

    3. buggerlugz says:

      oh, so most users will be lucky to get 20% of that!

  9. Random John says:

    I’ve maxed out at 802mbps on Three in my town, and get a heck load faster than figures reported. This report is not accurate unless non city environments are analysed. Cities are the most unrepresentative place to make judgements.

    1. Jay powell says:

      This news is ee sponncered by ee they crap and 5g is not free unlike three

    2. Sam says:

      Three have 5G at very few places now and wasting 5G bandwidth allocated to them. I joined them 2 years ago in hope of getting free 5G , now left them as no progress on 5G front. They should not be allowed to buy more 5G bandwidth to accumulate and hoard in the coming 5G auction. Their 4G and 3G networks are already overloaded due to cheap unlimited data sim plans and home broadband.

  10. Bubbles says:

    O2 Appears to have the fastest 5G where i am, suppose ill be with them when i change my SIM in my broadband 🙂

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