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Opensignal Name Best 4G and 5G UK Mobile Networks for Q1 2021

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 (11:14 am) - Score 5,712
mobile broadband speed test uk

The latest April 2021 Mobile Network Experience Report from Opensignal has measured the 4G and 5G (mobile broadband) performance of all four primary operators – EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three UK – to determine which delivers the best connectivity. Overall EE leads the pack, but it’s not a clear-cut victory in every category.

The new report is based on crowd-sourced data gathered from users on hundreds of thousands of devices (Smartphones etc.) between 1st December 2020 and 28th February 2021. The results were then processed to reveal how all the primary mobile network operators compared across various categories.

The primary study is predominantly focused upon existing 4G based networks, while we get a second study that examines 5G networks. Overall EE won most of the performance categories in the primary study, albeit being named as joint winners alongside Vodafone for online Games Experience (measured on a scale of 0-100, this analyses how multiplayer gaming experience is affected by latency, packet loss and jitter etc.).

The only category that EE completely lost to a rival network was for Voice App Experience, which was picked up by Vodafone.

opensignal_uk_mobile_awards_april_2021

The average download speeds seen by users on EE’s network have increased by a remarkable 4Mbps (11.4%) since the last biannual report to deliver an average total of 39Mbps, while those of users on other networks rose by just 0.2-0.6Mbps.

Meanwhile, EE also topped the pack for upload speeds (9.1Mbps), but Vodafone were close behind on 8.1Mbps. On top of all this we note that O2 saw the largest increase in their average upload speeds of 1Mbps (17.2%).

The scores for 4G UK network availability are much closer, although EE again takes the lead with 95.3%. By comparison, Three UK had the weakest 4G availability on 83.9%. We should point out that this reflects the percentage of time connected to a 4G service rather than raw network coverage.

Download Speed Experience

1. EE 39Mbps
2. Vodafone 21Mbps
3. Three UK 19.3Mbps
4. O2 17.3Mbps

Upload Speed Experience

1. EE 9.1Mbps
2. Vodafone 8.1Mbps
3. Three UK 6.8Mbps
4. O2 6.7Mbps

4G UK Availability %

1. EE 95.3%
2. Vodafone 89.6%
3. O2 89.3%
4. Three UK 83.9%

Finally, the results from the 5G experience report tell a similar story in some areas, although interestingly this is the first study that we’ve seen where Three UK has come top for 5G availability (6.5%) and that’s quite an achievement. At present the data on 5G availability is still very limited and most of what we’ve seen has only come from urban areas (city focused), although Opensignal’s testing is drawn from a much wider dataset.

However, EE still comes top for 5G download and upload speeds, although the performance gap between operators here is relatively small compared to the difference on 4G networks. The fact that O2 takes second place for download performance is also impressive, given how weakly they’ve performed in other categories.

opensignal_uk_5g_performance_april_2021

Overall O2 still comes out of this survey as the weakest of the four major providers and EE continues to dominate most categories in the awards. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the battle over 5G may end up being much closer, particularly given the new spectrum bands that Ofcom are about to release (here).

As usual there are caveats to this sort of study. For example, some operators have better 4G or 5G coverage, lots of spectrum bands and more advanced networks than others. Furthermore, app-based crowd-sourced data could also be impacted by any limitations or locations of the devices or package being used, which at the same time removes the ability to adopt a common type of hardware and environment to help form a solid baseline for testing.

Suffice to say that performance testing like this may not always tell the whole story, but Opensignal are one of the better organisations at analysing such data.

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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. JP says:

    Now there’s some data that seems genuine and in line with actual experiences for once.

  2. Ig Og says:

    Without a 5G signal, you can’t get a download speed…

  3. Santi says:

    I’d like to know how Opensignal takes into account those speed limitations on Vodafone Unlimited Mini and unlimited, if they do at all. My understanding is that tests run by users on those contracts would affect the max speeds shown on the report.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      They can’t, it’s one of the caveats with this sort of data.

    2. Sab says:

      I was thinking the same

    3. Lexx says:

      Only thing they can do is ask the user are they on unlimited max or unlimited-mini/lite or other when it detects Vodafone

      or just automatically ignore Vodafone results when speed test does a constant avg is around 2mb or 10mb as the speed test will be a flat 1.8mb or flat 9.5mb ish test so quite easy to filter out (unless Vodafone whitelist opensignal speedtest servers from bandwidth management)

  4. Marko says:

    Three is on top with 5G availability? Where? Good joke

  5. Del says:

    Which of the mobile providers has the most advanced network?

  6. Nick Roberts says:

    More Lemon morange in the Stratosphere.

    I received a new 5G phone as a birthday gift, only to find, from the coverage maps, that the signal in Harrow NW London is next to non-existent. Bog-standard O2 and Vodaphone don’t provide it. Only EE and Three claim to provide it and even then the EE signal is outdoors only and the Three signal is oatchy and mainly restricted to high ground.So all the little darlings attending Harrow Public School on the Harrow Hill can get it, but the plebes in the lower lying surrounding areas, no joy. And, get this, the signal boundary for the Harrow hill is located on the boundary of the Harrow School Cricket field !
    So, Mr Bacon, there’s no chance of the rest of us being able to dissipate, by retail therapy, the possibility of getting EE, 5G or any other type of envy.

    Just to try the new phone out, I got a Three PAYG Sim – phone and internet worked, but you can’t tell whether its 5G or 4G (The phone can step down to 3G if necessary) . . There’s no symbol showing on the screen. 5G or 4G, the data rate us appalling.

  7. Nick Roberts says:

    You’d have thought that any sensible government would have had a digital rounding/levelling policy i.e. all the areas currently denied FTTP for technical or financial reasons, then 5G would be provided as priority, or, vicky verky.

    But no, in my road, Openreach have declared GFast as “On demand” only, oresumably because of the prior installation of co-ax by Harrow Tekecable (Now Virgin) in the 1990s and 5g is sh*t.

    So frankly, all the saturation TV advertising, Government declarations and “Blue-sky-just-around-the-corner” articles are just Tesco on steroids i.e. pile it high and keep shovelling

  8. Neil Daniels says:

    Cool answer

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