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The Fastest 16 UK Cities for Mobile Broadband Speed in H2 2020

Thursday, April 8th, 2021 (10:30 am) - Score 2,664
5g mast on smartphone uk mobile

A new report from mobile benchmarking firm RootMetrics has used the data they gathered for their previous H2 2020 study (here) to rank 16 of the United Kingdom’s largest and fastest cities by their average (median) download speed on 4G and 5G networks. Liverpool came top with an aggregate speed of 43.6Mbps.

The company typically uses a team of testers to walk and drive around each city while running tests via a set of regular Samsung Note 10+ 5G Smartphones. Using this method, they found that Vodafone clocked the fastest overall median download speed in Liverpool at 73.5Mbps, while EE earned honours in Birmingham on 79.5Mbps.

The 5G-only speeds in both of the top fastest cities were also excellent, with only one operator in either market posting a 5G speed below 112Mbps. But even then, Three UK’s 5G speed of 94.1Mbps in Birmingham was still nothing to sniff at. Sadly, the company doesn’t include a split of 4G vs 5G speeds by each city, instead we only get a general average below.

Overall, the difference between the aggregate speeds of the 4 fastest cites in the UK was minor, with a total difference of about 7Mbps separating them. That gap became much larger, however, when comparing Liverpool’s speed to those of some much bigger cities (e.g. Liverpool is about 10Mbps faster than that of London). But the gap extends to 20Mbps when comparing the top and bottom ranked cities.

fastest_uk_cities_for_mobile_broadband_H2_2020

Now, just for fun, below you can see how things have changed since last year’s (H2 2019) result. Every city has seen an improvement, although some have become a lot faster than others in H2 2020 above (partly down to the 5G roll-out).

rootmetrics h2 2019 top 16 cities by mobile broadband speed

Mobile speeds are of course incredibly difficult to pin down due to the highly variable nature of the technology. Users of such services are always moving through different areas (indoor, outdoor, underground etc.), using different devices with different capabilities and the surrounding environment (weather, trees, buildings etc.) is ever changeable.

On top of that different operators may have different levels of coverage, technologies, backhaul capacity for cell sites and spectrum bands. All of this can impact the service you receive and will vary from location to location.

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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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11 Responses
  1. Buggerlugz says:

    “But even then, Three UK’s 5G speed of 94.1Mbps in Birmingham was still nothing to sniff at.”

    Sniff! sniff! If it’d been 4G then it would be acceptable, but for 5g 94Mbps its a complete joke.

    1. JP says:

      The issue now is that Three can say that they have an average speed which is only made possible by having a few hotspots where gigabit service is available to throw the balance.

  2. Bob says:

    Yeah 3’s speeds are a complete joke. I’ve been with them for 6 months and the average download speed doesn’t even reach 20Mbps. You’ll notice they don’t advertise their speeds on their site when they’re trying to sell you 5g.

    1. JP says:

      They do on 5G Home Broadband

    2. John says:

      No, this is how 5G speed will look eventually at all providers when more people will start using it. Remember 4G announcements? 100Mbps at anytime anywhere?

    3. Bubbles says:

      500Mbps here in cullingworth on 5G. Thats using three btw.

  3. Buggerlugz says:

    Here’s the kicker John, 4G is more than capable of 200Mbps+ on bands 1 and 3 (if theres enough back-haul / no mast contention) so 90Mbps with 5G is just not even trying.

    1. JP says:

      The problem with this report is that it puts 4G and 5G speeds together, and as you know its not unusual for 4G on networks to be running at sub 2mbps so depending how many 5G speed tests they run the results will average very low.

      As for the Birmingham results for 5G on Three, I can say that between the tests I have run, Three’s 5G runs between 130-1040mbps but most masts gave results of at least 130mbps albeit at distance, but when connecting within 500 meters gave 400-1000mbps.

      The other thing with Three’s 5G is that it will connect when in range with pretty much any 4G mast, and in many tests the 5G signal was so weak that the bandwidth wasn’t coming through 5G but just using the 4G carriers of the nearer mast.

      Other nets while the 5G would ‘on average’ run faster, it will not be available for connection most of the time, so when Rootmetrics where testing in different locations Three would of connected from the same 5G mast but differing 4G ones, where Vodafone/O2 for example would of been available much less, but when connected would operate much faster due to limited user based being connected and better signals due to proximity.

      On the other hand its no argument that Three’s 4G has issues in many areas, but when compared them with an operator like EE that has 3x the 4G bandwidth on the average mast in Birmingham compared to Three, so even if EE’s 5G operate in the same manner as Three’s it still gives them the upper hand for speed test results.

    2. JP says:

      I should add that yesterday I posted some quick speed test results using a Smarty sim (now getting 5G) I took whilst out walking and the results where around 130mbps, however the 5G cell id’s it was connecting to was a gigabit capable mast at over 3km’s away :L

      So three’s mission to spread the 5G icon is successful but if they continue operating like that then I’m sure we’ll see a lot of users using 1 site rather than multiple sites spread out.

  4. Gareth says:

    Did I dream it or did Three say a few years back that when they switched on their amazing 5G super fast network, it would be at least 3 times faster than rival networks due to having more spectrum or something like that?

  5. Michael V says:

    Cardiff…. Three’s 5G speeds average 300-500down.

    I’m seeing more LTE-Advanced with average of 150.

    Been with them for years.
    No they aren’t the fastest, but I’ve seen many improvements. Quite a bit of coverage improvements too.
    In my village 4G is around 50-60down. [just outside Cardiff]
    But for myself coverage is more important to me.

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