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RootMetrics Test 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds in 4 UK Cities

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021 (11:14 am) - Score 4,800
5g signal

Mobile benchmarking firm RootMetrics has today published a new report that examines the mobile broadband download speeds and availability of 5G networks across EE, O2, Vodafone and Three UK in four recently tested cities during the first half of 2021 – Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, and London.

The company typically uses a team of testers to both walk and drive around each city while running tests via a set of regular Samsung Note 10+ 5G Smartphones. We don’t quite know why RootMetrics opted to test these four specific cities (Vodafone didn’t even seem to be live in Coventry), but we would have preferred to see a study that examined performance across the main capitals of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland instead.

The new report also introduces a new “Everyday 5G” methodology to how they present their results. Essentially, instead of showing results recorded entirely on 5G-only technology, the new approach will now consider both 5G-only results and “Everyday 5G” performance metrics, which factor in results recorded on both 5G-only and 5G mixed mode.

Personally, we think this is just going to cause some extra confusion, and it’s often better to keep such things simple. Speaking of which, 5G-only in this context is NOT related to Standalone 5G (SA) technology, which is a whole different consideration.

What’s the difference between 5G-only, 5G mixed mode, and Everyday 5G?

5G-only results show what 5G can deliver when connected entirely to 5G, providing a look at what 5G performance would be like if it were ubiquitous today.

5G mixed mode results show performance in scenarios in which a user switches between 5G and 4G LTE during the same data task, an experience that is becoming more and more common.

Everyday 5G results combine results recorded on 5G-only with those on 5G mixed mode, showing how the networks perform when connected to 5G for any amount of time.

Overall, EE registered the highest Everyday 5G availability in three cities and the fastest Everyday 5G median download speed in three cities (including a tie with O2 in Birmingham). Meanwhile, Three UK seemed to struggle for Everyday 5G download speed, although they had good 5G availability in most of the cities tested.

The fastest 5G-only speed was recorded by O2 in Birmingham (193Mbps) and the only operator to drop below the 100Mbps+ level was Three UK in Bristol (78.4Mbps), although we aren’t including the fact that Vodafone didn’t have a score for anything in Coventry.

rootmetrics_everyday_5g_speeds_h1_2021

rootmetrics_5g_only_speeds_h1_2021

We should point out that Mobile Broadband speeds remain 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.
Leave a Comment
21 Responses
  1. Buggerlugz says:

    So in this testing not one of them delivered anything close to what 5G speeds should be delivering. In fact looking at the results here, realistically all of those recorded speeds could have been delivered by just using 4G.

    Welcome to the UK’s 5G people, its about as real as BT’s fibre products.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The overall median in light grey is what happens when you include 4G into the average, which at present and by itself is about four times slower than 5G (average speeds). When 4G first launched it was also not a dramatic jump over 3G, but this improved as more bands, capacity and network expansion occurred. It’s still early days for 5G.

    2. Mike says:

      The way the spectrum auctions are run discourages operators from doing much beyond the bare minimum and the UK is one of few countries with very generous data usage limits.

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      But it’s not “early days” for 4G Mark and its not like any carrier is delivering anything like what its capable of, so why should we expect 5G to deliver its 10Gbps ever?

    4. Mark Jackson says:

      10Gbps is a peak rate (shared capacity) and that’s not likely to be delivered without good use of mmWave bands (I think 4G LTE-A set this at 1Gbps) via c.1GHz of overall spectrum frequency. In a dense urban environment 5G’s “target user experienced data rate” was set at 100Mbps (50Mbps upload) by the ITU some years ago, which is somewhat better than my own fixed line connection at home.

    5. Buggerlugz says:

      Which is why the entire 5G endeavour is flawed. 4G should be 200Mbps minimum today and 5G should be 1Gbps from its inception.

      Like Mike said, everything is done so the carriers can deliver the minimum, not anything like they all say they’re new 5G will deliver in their sales marketing.

      I think we’re all being hoodwinked, like “superfast” not being even “fast” in 2021 and BT “heading towards” a fibre nation (when the majority is pathetic FTTC struggling to be even reach “superfast”), 4 and 5g is just the same thing painted in a different colour.

      The carriers paint a pretty picture of the future of broadband but they’re simply not prepared to deliver it anytime soon.

    6. Mike says:

      BT wanted to roll out FTTP in the 90s and the Thatcher government stopped them, another example of government ruining the market.

  2. CarlT says:

    I reckon an AI could predict who is commenting on articles and what they are going to say with extremely high accuracy.

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      I don’t think it’d take AI Carl.

  3. Ig Og says:

    Who owns rootmetrics?

  4. Jack says:

    Is rootmetrics still zero rated on EE?

  5. Anna says:

    My Brother In Law does this – he’s up in Edinburgh right now and then in Oxford on friday – he’s got about 40 phones and 3 laptops and he just stays in hotels – what a job!

  6. Rob says:

    In testing, I had faster speeds on 4g CA or LTE+, and 5g was designed to use CA with 4g CA.
    All these speeds are rubbish.

  7. Asad Niaz says:

    With time it will improve with more Infra built to support mimo. Fibre rollout would be the key. Also for a normal user low latency is not as much required as it would be required by a surgeon intending to perform a surgery remotely. So once all in place we will still not get the highest capable speed. It’s pretty liquid for application to application.

  8. James says:

    English Cities*

  9. Colin says:

    I always achieve speeds of 360Mbps on Vodafone using a S20 Ultra (location around Birmingham M6/A38M junction) that the highest I have received anywhere in country, in and around London and the SE I only achieve around average 60Mbps. My work EE 4G exceeds this always.

  10. Me says:

    Very surprised by O2 I have to say. Wonder if their MVNO’s will get the same performance? Or are they still capped heavily on 5G?

  11. Scott says:

    All depends where you’re at and what time of day it is. My phone’s recorded 619mbps in Paddington station at 5am and usually gets close to that in the small hours. It’s more like 300mbps-450mbps in the daytime though.

  12. Dave says:

    I’ve recorded 437Mbps in a park in Wolverhampton on a Sunday around lunchtime.

  13. Dave says:

    I had well over 200m/bit on 4G at the weekend (admittedly highest I’d ever seen it)…the odd occasion 5G appears the speed tests are underwhelming – never more than 40m/bit.

  14. Nick says:

    There is this mystical place above Birmingham called ‘the north’ perhaps root metric would be kind enough to pull their fingers out and discover there too!

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