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UK 5G vs 4G Mobile Broadband Speeds at Different Times of Day

Friday, Jun 30th, 2023 (12:01 am) - Score 4,528
opensignal_mobile_network_testing

Mobile benchmarking firm Opensignal has produced an interesting insight into how download speeds on 4G and 5G networks – across operators including EE (BT), Vodafone, O2 (VMO2) and Three UK – compare, both generally and at different times of the day.

The new research is based off crowdsourced data gathered from users on hundreds of thousands of devices (Smartphones etc.) between 1st March and 29th May 2023. Overall, 4G speeds were found to fall by a similar amount to 5G across most of the day. In fact, 4G appears to be slightly more resilient than 5G in the morning and afternoon. But users on both mobile network generations see their lowest average speeds between 6 and 9pm.

However, 5G still delivered the best speeds at all times of day, often by a very significant margin. Users’ 5G download speeds were found to be 3.9 to 4.3 times faster than 4G across the three-hour periods of each day Opensignal analysed.

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As for the performance across different mobile operators. Customers of Three UK saw the fastest 5G download speeds across all hours of the day, but they also saw the greatest reduction in speed during busy times compared to the early morning (3-6am) peak (i.e. 23.5-29.9% lower than their daily peak, compared with 16.7-21.5% for EE, 13.3-22.1% for O2 and 19.5-24.4% for Vodafone).

By comparison, EE customers see the fastest 4G speeds across all hours of the day, while both EE and Vodafone users saw only relatively small declines from the download speeds seen in the early morning during peak hours.

Opensignal-4g-vs-5g-uk-mobile-broadband-speeds-by-time-of-day-q2-2023

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
16 Responses
    1. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      Would test myself if I had a 5G enabled phone and 3 Sim – there’s a mast almost directly outside for 5G from Three. The most I’ve seen from O2 on 4G is a maximum of about 55-60mbps. levelled around 35 with some drops to 3mbps. And that’s with clear sight of the mast 0.8 miles away.

    2. Avatar photo DBM says:

      I’m getting over 300mbit at night (rather, after midnight) and then between 3-30mbit during the day time now. On three.

    3. Avatar photo charles says:

      Sorry I thought you were on Smarty paying 3p a month and getting the moon on a stick?

      Or has it changed again?

  1. Avatar photo Declan M says:

    02 consistent as always, consistently crap. Staggering the difference with 3 and EE but couldn’t trust 3 with their poor 4G speed.

  2. Avatar photo Tristan says:

    I have to agree about EE 4G. In my area I get 400Mbps download speeds on 4G+ and it is the only network that works in any of my local supermarkets which all seem to be a deadzone for mobile reception.

  3. Avatar photo Flame Henry says:

    What?! VMO2 keep telling me they are the best and fastest. They won loads of awards, they told me.

    And now an independent third-party has come along and says they are actually the worst. Have they been lying this whole time?

    1. Avatar photo Dan says:

      It’s long been known that O2 definitely aren’t the best for data speeds. Every single proper independent report puts them bottom or 2nd from last of rankings.

    2. Avatar photo Declan m says:

      Award winning and reliable they do make me laugh am sure they were the last network in the UK to have a nationwide blackout.

  4. Avatar photo 10BaseT says:

    Very interesting, something I would compare to reinventing the wheel. Is there anyone who didn’t know that?

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      Indeed – I posted something very similar over three years ago (https://www.ispreview.co.uk/talk/threads/our-local-ee-4g-variability-a-short-study.36276/).

      Coincidentally, I repeated the exercise recently. EE 4G speeds locally have dropped to often < 10 Mb/s in the evening peak, and rarely above 50 Mb/s even in the middle of the night. Either they are throttling more aggressively, or the system is hopelessly congested. Odd, as there is far more local FTTP now than there was then.

  5. Avatar photo Martyn says:

    “Research based on crowdsourced data” hahaha

    My data and that of others with an interest in such things is based on common sense –

    1 – Best speeds are obtained when most people are asleep and network capacity is not an issue.

    2 – Slower speeds or no speed at all is easily obtained at all other times of day and most commonly when you really need it.

  6. Avatar photo Blake says:

    Mirrors my performance of the best and worst. Three sim get 350Mbps at off peak times on 5G and 150Mbps peak, O2 though at best 50Mpbs and at worst less than 1Mbps. Soon as the tourists hit the beach at the weekend here though both are too congested for any data use and only way either sim will work is to force onto 3G only. Then it’s at least useable to stream music as I guess no-one is using it.

    So much for 5G being the saviour for times of congestion. Shame they’re turning 3G off at some point really.

  7. Avatar photo O2 says:

    Can’t wait for the usual O2 comments.

    For me it’s O2 20Mbps no service from the others. Speed is useless if you can’t use it and O2 cares more about coverage than the others. EE particularly are hopeless indoors.

  8. Avatar photo Mark says:

    Too bad that a lot of places I go, the Three network is heavily congested! I usually end up having to force my phone onto 3G! The only decent network in the UK is EE. Just a shame that I can’t justify paying £20 a month for 500Mb of data when I get unlimited data for £15 a month on iD!

    1. Avatar photo Gavin says:

      Use a smaller virtual network that runs on EE like Lyca Mobile, 1p mobile or the many others if you just have a Google. Are much cheaper.

Comments are closed

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