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Study of 5G Broadband Speeds and Availability in 16 UK Cities

Wednesday, February 9th, 2022 (10:37 am) - Score 4,752
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Mobile testing firm RootMetrics (Ookla) has today published a new H2 2021 summary of 5G based mobile broadband performance and availability across the United Kingdom, which reveals how each of the primary network operators – EE (BT), Vodafone, Three UK and O2 (VMO2) – performed across 16 of the biggest metro cities.

As usual, this study used the “latest” Samsung 5G-enabled smartphones – purchased off the shelf from operator stores – to mobile data performance on the networks, which involved conducting a total of 650,328 tests, including at 750 different locations and while driving a total of 25,027 miles. But sadly there’s no data on latency times or upload speeds.

NOTE: The availability % below reflects ‘time spent on 5G’ and is thus not an identical figure to that of network coverage.

Overall, the report found that EE recorded the highest 5G availability and fastest 5G median download speed in more cities than any other operator, while clocking 5G speeds above 100Mbps in every market. But to be fair, none of the operators were particularly slow and all appeared to have performance that sat in a similar sort of ballpark. Rivals also achieved faster speeds in a number of cities.

The fastest city for EE was Bristol (187.8 Mbps), while the city with the strongest availability on their network was Nottingham (59.4%). By comparison, Three UK’s fastest was Leicester (223.5 Mbps) and their availability was strongest in Hull (52.6%). O2’s fastest was Glasgow (169.2 Mbps), while they had the best availability in Hull (47.2%). Finally, Vodafone was fastest in Nottingham (255.8 Mbps – but they only had 0.5% availability there) and they had the best availability in Liverpool (59.6%).

EE
Glasgow 31.6% | 159.4 Mbps
Edinburgh 33.2% | 143.3 Mbps
Newcastle 46.0% | 121.1 Mbps
Belfast 41.3% | 147.9 Mbps
Liverpool 48.4% | 146.1 Mbps
Manchester 46.5% | 158.2 Mbps
Leicester 46.4% | 116.6 Mbps
Birmingham 53.3% | 140.8 Mbps
Nottingham 59.4% | 167.8 Mbps
Sheffield 40.5% | 147.1 Mbps
Leeds and Bradford 31.2% | 150.9 Mbps
Hull 52.6% | 142.2 Mbps
Cardiff 45.4% | 156.7 Mbps
Coventry 24.6% | 148.8 Mbps
London 42.4% | 145.6 Mbps
Bristol 30.5% | 187.8 Mbps

Three UK
Glasgow 30.0% | 100.2Mbps
Edinburgh 25.0% | 78.9 Mbps
Newcastle 26.2% | 123.2 Mbps
Belfast 15.2% | 133.4 Mbps
Liverpool 33.7% | 204.9 Mbps
Manchester 45.6% | 116.0 Mbps
Leicester 43.9% | 223.5 Mbps
Birmingham 47.9% | 167.6 Mbps
Nottingham 46.9% | 99.8 Mbps
Sheffield 28.4% | 96.1 Mbps
Leeds and Bradford 33.4% | 103.5 Mbps
Hull 52.6% | 142.2 Mbps
Coventry 20.9% | 117.9 Mbps
London 36.6% | 107.3 Mbps
Bristol 30.9% | 73.2 Mbps
Cardiff 35.5% | 75.3 Mbps

O2 (VMO2)
Glasgow 13.0% | 169.2 Mbps
Edinburgh 46.7% | 74.9 Mbps
Newcastle 40.6% | 123.1 Mbps
Belfast 36.1% | 106.0 Mbps
Liverpool 40.0% | 113.6 Mbps
Manchester 23.6% | 130.6 Mbps
Leicester 39.4% | 123.7 Mbps
Birmingham 22.9% | 133.2 Mbps
Nottingham 21.9% | 122.7 Mbps
Sheffield 21.5% | 142.6 Mbps
Leeds and Bradford 25.6% | 137.7 Mbps
Hull 47.2% | 92.3 Mbps
Cardiff 26.3% | 140.0 Mbps
Coventry 23.2% | 142.8 Mbps
London 19.3% | 134.4 Mbps
Bristol 34.5% | 137.1 Mbps

Vodafone
Glasgow 28.8% | 144.1 Mbps
Edinburgh 19.9% | 115.8 Mbps
Newcastle 29.9% | 113.3 Mbps
Belfast 31.8% | 115.8 Mbps
Liverpool 59.6% | 111.3 Mbps
Manchester 43.6% | 114.8 Mbps
Leicester 3.3% | 155.4 Mbps
Birmingham 40.4% | 114.3 Mbps
Nottingham 0.5% | 255.8 Mbps
Sheffield 15.4% | 113.2 Mbps
Leeds and Bradford 18.7% | 121.5 Mbps
Hull 39.8% | 109.6 Mbps
Cardiff 47.4% | 110.9 Mbps
Coventry 9.9% | 154.4 Mbps
London 33.6% | 129.0 Mbps
Bristol 58.4% | 114.9 Mbps

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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
22 Responses
  1. Chris says:

    Really interesting to see how the Vodafone/O2 mast sharing agreement affects the 5G rollout

    O2 Host Zone –
    Vodafone / O2 5G Availability
    Edinburgh 19.9% / 46.7%
    Newcastle 29.9% / 40.6%
    Leeds and Bradford 18.7% / 25.6%

    Vodafone Host Zone –
    Vodafone / O2 5G Availability
    Glasgow 28.8% / 13.0%
    Bristol 58.4% / 34.5%
    Liverpool 59.6% / 40.0%

    Really paints a picture of a big regional divide on these two networks that EE and 3 don’t suffer from.
    I wonder how they are going to accelerate the rollout in the coming years

    1. CJ says:

      Many of these cities are being unwound from the network share. As far as i know, Vodafone still has 0% 5G coverage in O2 areas that aren’t being unwound. Certainly in the southern half of the O2 region (the Nokia zone) there is no Vodafone 5G.

    2. James says:

      Hull’s VF coverage is actually quite good then for an O2 zone!

    3. CJ says:

      My mistake, it’s just the southern (Nokia) half of the O2 area where they are upgrading sites to 5G without adding Vodafone 5G.

  2. mohammed says:

    its a shame to see 5G not being fully utilised in UK by any of the operators. i was in Barcelona last November and could easily get 900mbps in the city center with Vodafone spain…….

    1. Connor says:

      The thing is despite the low results from Three I will more often than not see them getting gigabit speeds in Wolves City Centre with peaks up to 1.3gbps.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      For a fair comparison Mohammed, you’d first need to produce a median average download speed of Barcelona from a similarly formed study. That would be more useful than a singular person’s experience.

    3. nabs says:

      It’s worth remembering the RootMetrics results will be recorded to their own speed test servers rather than the ‘best available

      I regularly get much higher speeds reported through speedtest.net than RootMetrics for example, I’ve just tested my connection now RootMetrics maxes out at 78.6Mbps but speedtest.net reports 148Mbps.
      Big difference in the results despite being the same device, same network with test carried out merely seconds apart.

      These ‘Speed reports’ should be taken with a truck load of salt!

  3. GaryH says:

    The speeds in the list of cities are averages around the cities aren’t they ? Which covers Mohammeds Barcelona city centre results and ties in with Connors experience in Wolves surely.

    If the UK implementation of 5G ie bandwidth frequency allocation and backhaul is as good as it could be I’ve no idea just a pessimistic assumption that its not likely.

  4. Jamie Simms says:

    Chris Says- You have missed out two of the Midlands biggest cities in the O2 controlled area on Vodafone in Leicester at 3% and Nottingham at 0.5%

  5. Phil says:

    5G still NOTHING in my area yet. Really so slow to roll out.

  6. Anuraj says:

    O2 5g & 4g coverage rubbish. Good for voice calls

    Three coverage average because they only have 1 or 2mast
    Active for each town and claim full town covered.

    EE 5g coverage is reasonably good but some places 4g speed better than 5g. I don’t understand how. Main problem with EE is
    Voice calls quality. They use 4g calling most of the time for voice calls and voice calls TERRIBLE.

    Vodafone have good 5g coverage within m25 and voice quality very good. I am not sure outside London 5g coverage.

    1. Declan m says:

      I changed over to Plusnet then to EE about 3/4 years ago from Vodafone and I could hear the difference in voice quality straight away I could never get 4G calling with Vodafone where I stay but the quality on 3G was far superior to EE, disappointing as EE are far better for Speed and Availability where I stay.

    2. Guest says:

      Vodafone and good 5G coverage within M25? Sorry you must be referring to another Vodafone as I’ve never found that to be the case rather I’ve found Vodafone 5G’s coverage to be as poor as Three’s 4G coverage.

      If you want to describe a good or a decent 5G coverage within the M25, I suggest that it’s actually Three that’s the best there.

      Vodafone’s 5G coverage is poor and needs improving but I could say all 4 operators need to rapidly increase their 5G coverage.

  7. Anuraj says:

    Agreed. Speed with EE is good also battery drain quick with EE because of weak signal most of the time

  8. Meatball says:

    The reality is we are a long way from 5G. What we have is 5G NR in places and complex network settings being applied that mean:

    5G Android phones display the 5G logo despite there being no 5G service (THREE, EE and Vodafone)

    If there is NSA present the 5G connection is established via 4G but if the data requirement is low the 5G NSA disconnects after x seconds and you have LTE. 5G re-establishes only if the data requirement increases such as a speed test or large download (seen on THREE and EE). I thought initially to be device settings (Samsung A22 5G and Moto G50 5G battery saving settings) but I now suspect it to be network driven.

    Ookla speedtest shows 5G even if the connection is actually established via LTE even though speeds are good (seen on Vodafone pole renewed with 5G). 5G NSA present but not selected, with the LTE on 2100.

    Provider coverage maps appear to be theoretical and even if they are correct the B1 Threshold means that the device stays on LTE. Things may get better but currently the Inter, Intra and RAT handovers are certainly confusing me and appear at odds with their stated coverage. Gets worse when near other LTE masts (non 5G).

    We need to be clear where 5G is actually usable and what behaviour will be experienced because of the network settings applied by each provider. I expect more complexity when 700Mhz is present.

    Our service regardless of provider is probably dependent on a handful of individuals.

    Do Rootmetrics take all this into their data capture?

    1. Sam P says:

      Which Android phones display 5G when not connected to 5G?

      None of my handsets do this and I’ve spent more hours that I should have testing and mapping out 3G/4G/5G on all 4 networks.

  9. Jamie says:

    “in the north” (Cumbria) I feel 5G has such a slow painful rollout. o2/Vodafone showing little interest, however, Three seems to really be pushing this.

  10. Mark says:

    I don’t understand why EE 5G network comes out on top. Every time I’ve tested 5G it’s always slower than the 4G network and very limited coverage compared to other networks.

    1. James says:

      It’s rootmetrics. They seem to ‘favour’ EE for some reason.

      Their app is poor and speedtests conducted on their app in comparison to others is poor too. 300-400 on rootmetrics 700-900 on others.

  11. Daniel says:

    They should have tested in more cities, for example a “rural” city like Sunderland on EE I usually average 350mb/s on 5G and has massive coverage, depends on the device they’re using too, my Z Fold 2 only gets 220-270 and my iPhone averages 290-370

  12. Steve says:

    I dont see any Three monopoles going up in Northampton. Ive read tweets that others in the UK have been seeing many 5G monopoles going up in their towns & cities. Ive seen a new 5G monopole with green lights at the top but the sticker on the cabinet states it belongs to Vodafone.

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