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EE UK Tops Opensignal Q3 Mobile Benchmark, But Lose Grip in 5G

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021 (11:00 am) - Score 3,144

Opensignal’s latest Q3 2021 Mobile Network Experience Report, which uses crowd-sourced data to measure the 4G and 5G (mobile broadband) performance of all four primary operators (EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three UK) to determine which delivers the best service, has given most of the awards to EE. Except when only looking at 5G.

The new report is based on crowd-sourced data gathered from users on hundreds of thousands of devices (Smartphones etc.) between 1st June 2021 and 29th August 2021. The results were then processed to reveal how all of the primary Mobile Network Operators (MNO) compared across various categories.

The main study is predominantly focused upon the combined 4G and 5G results from existing operators, but we also get a second study that examines 5G performance (i.e. removing the 4G specific results).

Overall, EE won most of the performance categories in the primary study, except for Voice App Experience and Games Experience (measured on a scale of 0-100, this analyses how multiplayer gaming experience is affected by latency, packet loss and jitter etc.), where they were joint winners with Vodafone.

However, the results from Opensignal’s 5G focused study (i.e. removing the 4G specific results) were much more divided, with most categories having no overall winner. But EE did still come top for both download speed and upload speed. We should point out that 5G upload speeds are still being driven by 4G services (until Standalone 5G is fully adopted), hence why those results aren’t massively better than 4G.

The Results

In our summary, we’ve opted to only showcase the familiar categories of download speed, upload speed and availability (i.e. % of time spent connected to 4G or 5G). We’ve also compared these scores with those from Opensignal’s previous report

NOTE: Figures in brackets () reflect the previous biannual results from April 2021.

Download Speed Experience (4G+5G)

1. EE 44Mbps (39Mbps)
2. Three UK 25.2Mbps (19.3Mbps)
3. Vodafone 21.6Mbps (21Mbps)
4. O2 17.1Mbps (17.3Mbps)

Download Speed Experience (5G)

1. EE 131.9Mbps (140Mbps)
2. O2 110.9Mbps (128.9Mbps)
3. Three UK 103.9Mbps (115.9Mbps)
4. Vodafone 73.3Mbps (103.1Mbps)

Upload Speed Experience (4G+5G)

1. EE 9.7Mbps (9.1Mbps)
2. Vodafone 7.4Mbps (8.1Mbps)
3. Three UK 6.3Mbps (6.8Mbps)
4. O2 5.4Mbps (6.7Mbps)

Upload Speed Experience (5G)

1. EE 13.8Mbps (16.4Mbps)
2. Vodafone 12.3Mbps (14.7Mbps)
3. Three UK 11.6Mbps (12.7Mbps)
4. O2 9.3Mbps (10Mbps)

4G UK Availability %

1. EE 93.6% (95.3%)
2. Vodafone 86.4% (89.6%)
3. O2 83.6% (89.3%)
4. Three UK 81.2% (83.9%)

5G UK Availability %

1. Three UK 7.4% (6.5%)
2. Vodafone 6.4% (4.6%)
3. EE 5.5% (5.5%)
4. O2 4.7% (3.3%)

Interestingly, 5G speeds seem to have fallen since last time, which might reflect a rise in take-up by consumers (more strain on network capacity) and the fact that most operators haven’t yet had a chance to harness Ofcom’s recently auctioned spectrum bands (e.g. 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz).

5G availability also showed an expected improvement for Three UK, Vodafone and O2, although EE was oddly unchanged on 5.5%. A rise in 5G availability may naturally decrease 4G availability, since people will be spending more and more time on 5G as UK network coverage and related Smartphone adoption expands.

But there are caveats to this sort of study. For example, app-based crowd-sourced data could 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. Some operators may also have better 4G or 5G coverage, better fibre capacity and more spectrum bands than others.

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. Lucian says:

    I’ve definitely experienced lower speeds and higher latency this year on EE (vs three).

    1. Mike says:

      EE tends to be better where 4G is the only option, speedwise, at least from my experience.

    2. Lewis Taylor says:

      Bold claim @Damien. You sure it’s “all of the time” (I find very hard to believe) or perhaps some of the time on the occasion you’ve run a speedtest?

      If I’m wrong and you’ve got test data showing 700mbps+ everyday in various locations then I’ll most certainly be making the switch to this magic network 😉

      I use EE and don’t live in an area where I get 5G. I’m close to their current coverage and frequently travel through and work in these areas. The performance at least where I travel to work (I’m field based so travel around a lot) and spend time has been consistently good. 4G speeds average has been 80mbps with the highest being 358.5mbps. 5G speeds average has been 168.4mbps with the highest being 585.6mbps.

      Latency average over 4G has been 28.44ms. Latency average over 5G has been 23.06ms.

      Overall I’m happy with the performance I get. I haven’t seen any trend in my own data collection to suggest it slowing down or having higher latency but realise this could be down to location and even device being used.

    3. Bubbles says:

      @Lewis Taylor, look at a three speedtest video on youtube. In the majority of places their 5G is well over 700,bps and can do 1Gbps when it really wants to.

  2. Matt says:

    Can’t say I’m that impressed with EE 5G. I can get a low as 20Mbps near home with two bars.

    In the centre of town its better around 120Mbps but when I tested Three out with a SIM in the same locations, 400 was possible!

  3. Michael V says:

    I’ve seen Three’s 5G coverage expand thru Cardiff & speeds are great.
    We may say caveats to this type of testing but this is real world for consumers.

    But then, my Xiaomi will show 2 bars of 5G but my mate’s iphone will not see 5G.

    Unfortunately Antennas ain’t made equal.

    1. Billy nomates says:

      especially on the wally fruitphones. Remember that one where if you held the phone in the “wrong” place it would block the signal. Yep top engineers those Apple lot. But are you sure your friends fruitphone was a 5G one? Not an expert but i think they only recently (as of 12) got 5G

  4. Stella says:

    poor experience with 5G in London this weekend. No 5G in Kings Cross, none in London Bridge. Vodafone and three worked though (don’t have O2 so I can’t test). Super disappointed, oh well.

  5. Gary H says:

    Broadly static in reality, nothing in those figures to write home about.

  6. Jack says:

    I’ve just recently switched to EE from Vodafone not for any particular reason apart from my contract ending with Voda. Signal is slightly better on Vodafone in my town but saying that we do have a Vodafone call center based here (Stoke) so probably why other than that EE have got way more consistent speeds frequently over 100mbps on 4G and over 300mbps on 5G where Vodafone got roughly half that everywhere i go. EE is amazing in the Liverpool area never went to 4G from 5G and very good strong speeds.

  7. Buggerlugz says:

    So the usual suspects still have 5G barely delivering speeds that 4G+ should in reality deliver all the time.

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