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Testing 5G Speeds in Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021 (9:05 am) - Score 1,296
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Mobile benchmark firm RootMetrics has just published a new summary of their latest 5G based UK mobile broadband speed and availability testing across the four primary network operators – EE (BT), O2 (VMO2), Vodafone and Three UK – in the cities of Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

RootMetrics typically employs a team of testers to both walk and drive around each city while running a huge battery of tests via a set of regular Samsung Note 10+ 5G Smartphones. The new report is based on data from their H1 2021 testing period. The company has previously published similar reports for Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry and London (here), as well as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and Nottingham (here).

NOTE: Mixed mode connections show performance from scenarios in which a user switches between 5G and older 4G services during the same data task, an experience that is quite common.

The latest report focuses on the four cities of Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle in England. The results come in two different flavours, one is recorded entirely on 5G-only connections, while the other adopts their so-called “Everyday 5G” performance metric – this factors results recorded on both 5G-only and 5G mixed mode connections.

Sadly, there is a catch with these results in that one of the cities (Leicester) does not have any 5G results from Vodafone, which is a trend that we also saw in RootMetrics previous two studies. Vodafone does in fact have a fair bit of 5G coverage in Leicester, although it’s unclear how big this was when RootMetrics conducted their study or whether the study itself simply wasn’t detailed enough to reflect it.

The Results

Overall, EE delivered the highest Everyday 5G and 5G Only availability, as well as the fastest overall median download speeds (this factors in both 4G and 5G), across all four cities. But it was a different story for Everyday 5G and 5G Only download speeds, where O2 came top in all four cities, despite having some of the weakest 5G availability of all the operators.

For example, O2 achieved an Everyday 5G and 5G Only speed (median download) of 153Mbps and 172Mbps in Leicester, respectively. This was not only the fastest result recorded in the study, but also places them comfortably above their rivals, although obviously Vodafone didn’t return a score for that city.

We should point out that all the operators appear to be rapidly improving their 5G availability in such cities. For example, EE’s Everyday 5G availability in Manchester has expanded from 44.7% to 59.4% since 2H 2020, while O2 (VMO2) has gone from 0.3% to 20.0% in the same city, and it was a similar story for O2 – 19.6% to 39.1%. Vodafone has also gone from 0% to 24.4% in Newcastle.

Rootmetrics-5g-only-speeds-h1-2021-map-Leicester-Liverpool-Manchester-Newcastle

Rootmetrics-everyday-5g-speeds-h1-2021-map-Leicester-Liverpool-Manchester-Newcastle

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. The latest report from RootMetrics also leaves out any mention of 5G latency or upload speeds, although those two areas may be waiting for Standalone 5G (SA) technology to arrive for maximum benefit.

The data is also too new to reflect any impact from the completion of Ofcom’s latest 5G spectrum auction (here), which saw the regulator sell chunks of the 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz bands off to various different operators. Given time, these should help to boost their network speeds and coverage.

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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
10 Responses
  1. Name says:

    meanwhile in Edinburg ma you can get in O2 is 35Mbit/s

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    Absolutely pathetic, 4g (with enough backhaul) could exceed every one of those “supposed” 5g speeds.

    1. CarlT says:

      More spectrum and more masts needed to take full advantage.

      These are median average speeds, not maximums. 5G consistently outperforms 4G from the same operators.

      Need more spectrum and more masts, though. Spectrum is waiting on Ofcom, masts are proving difficult due to the usual planning permission issues alongside the fruitloops who think having a mast anywhere near will kill them.

      If you have any suggestions on how the mobile industry can increase mast count substantially under the current rules or where they may find spectrum to load with carriers they’ll probably be all ears.

    2. Ryan says:

      @CarlT You’re right this country got too many fruitloops that try as hard as the can to stop any new masts.

      The worst one are the fruitloops that are in the planning committees , my partner working in the housing department of the council dealing with mostly complaint about 3-4 month one of the tower block flat got the roof mast upgrade to 5G by EE, am pretty sure Three is broadcasting on same site, two tenants are calling and sending in letters near constantly 2-3 a week demanding they get removed due to crazy conspiracy theories.

    3. Buggerlugz says:

      I don’t think it is Carl, I think most carriers haven’t got mast-backhaul capable of delivering the sorts of speeds the marketing departments put out for “The 5g experience”. Hell, a good proportion don’t even have enough back-haul for delivering 50Mbps+ 4g!

    4. CarlT says:

      Appreciate your issues with backhaul on Three but they aren’t typical of all networks in all locations.

      The bottleneck to 5G is lack of spectrum. Backhaul can and is being addressed, I’ve seen tons of work from CityFibre, Openreach and others to deliver fibre to masts previously on microwave daisy chains.

    5. CarlT says:

      On the same amount of spectrum 5G is superior though not by much to a single device.

      5G unlocks ability to use tons more spectrum, but that relies on Ofcom.

      Fairly sure 3G and 4G took a while to ramp up for various reasons. 4G was spectrum, 3G progressing technology and lack of money to invest having spent insane amounts on spectrum.

  3. Buggerlugz says:

    I think 5G in the UK is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

    1. Name says:

      Like everywhere, remember first 4G ads?

  4. daveyfs says:

    The problem I’ve noted with Vodafone 5G in Swansea is that whilst there is pretty good 5G availability, I’ve rarely seemed to be able to connect to it. Is there an issue here with the way Vodafone configures prioritisation on the network? It’s a pity, because on the odd occasions I did connect the speeds were very good.

    Because of this I’m now on EE, where there’s 5G availability constantly in the places I go, speeds between 120 and 250 roughly, which is absolutely fine.

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