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5G Download Speeds Have Fallen in 9 out of 12 UK Regions

Thursday, Aug 31st, 2023 (7:53 am) - Score 2,288
Hand holding smartphone with speed test on screen.

Internet benchmarking firm Ookla, which operates the popular broadband and mobile network performance testing service Speedtest.net, has revealed that 5G based mobile broadband download speeds have fallen across most regions of the UK over the past year. But despite this, overall data speeds (4G + 5G) have increased.

The latest study looked at speed testing data gathered between Q2 2022 and Q2 2023, which found that, overall, users in 10 out of 12 of the UK’s regions have seen a mild increase in their Download Speed across all mobile broadband types (4G, 5G) combined – ranging from +23.4% in the North East to a low of +3.9% in the Yorkshire & Humberside region. The exceptions were the South West and N.Ireland, where the changes were too small to be noteworthy.

However, when the study looked at the average 5G download speeds seen by users, there were statistically significant declines in 9 out of 12 regions. Of these, three regions see declines of more than 20% — Northern Ireland (21.6%), East Midlands (21%) and the South East (20.7%) — while Yorkshire and Humber is not far behind with a fall in speeds of 17.8%.

Such declines are usually due to the combination of network maturity and rising consumer take-up, which over time tends to put pressure on capacity (i.e. network congestion). But Ofcom’s future plans to release more 5G spectrum (here) and the evolution of 5G technology itself (e.g. Standalone 5G) should bring future improvements.


Elsewhere, Ookla also observed a broad increase in the proportion of time users spent with an active 4G or 5G connection (Time on 4G/5G), which is hardly surprising given recent improvements in coverage and the gradual sunset of 3G and, eventually, 2G mobile services. The most impressive Year-on-Year increase was seen in Wales with a rise of 4.5 percentage points, while the smallest increase was seen in Yorkshire & Humber at 2.4 percentage points.

Overall, if we split this down to network operator level, then ‘Time on 4G/5G’ at EE is now 97.2% (up from 95.5% in January 2022), while at Three UK it’s 94% (up sharply from 85.2% – the largest single increase of any operator), on Vodafone it’s 93.2% (up from 88.2%) and last comes O2 (VMO2) on 90.1% (up from 86.8%).

The amount of time 5G users spend with an active 5G connection is also on the rise. Over the last year, Ookla’s users in London saw the largest increase in 5G Availability with a rise of four percentage points, followed by the East Midlands and Eastern with improvements of 3.2 and 3 percentage points, respectively. Similarly, Wales saw a rise of 2 percentage points. However, users in Scotland did not observe a statistically significant increase in their score.


As stated earlier, the increases in 5G Availability may help to explain the decline in 5G download speeds, as more users are vying for the same data and spectrum capacity than before.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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18 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    I will stay with 4G, it seems to be more reliable than 5G and works when you walk between buildings and inside buildings.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      I will stay with having both alongside WiFi 6E. All of them can fall back to earlier, less performant standards if need be. Good to have options.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @XGS, by all accounts 5g if it can’t get a decent signal drains the phone’s battery a lot quicker than what 4G and 3G does. 3G was a good fall back, but I suppose we have to cope with 2G now for full back for voice/text anyway.

      Wi-Fi is a different thing, you are normally in your own home with Wi-Fi, so you know where it can and where it can’t reach. If you got devices that only use a certain Wi-fi standard, then there is nothing you can really do. Most smart home devices uses 2.4Ghz.

  2. Avatar photo Ade says:

    I am in Branston – Burton on Trent and 5G speeds on EE are a joke – 14 Meg, with full signal and the cell site in view! (You did read that right)

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      There’s 2 sites, one for VF/O2 another for 3/EE, near me in Stroud, GL5 3LH that broadcasts 5G for all operators. And you can’t get more than 15mbps down or up at any time of the day on any network.

      It must be a back haul issue in the area.

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      The only 5G mast EE have in Burton is on top of the college. I doubt very much you’re seeing that from Branston. You’re probably referring to the mast on the industrial estate which is only 4G

    3. Avatar photo Anon says:

      @Jim, I checked the O2 mast you mentioned at Stroud, GL5 3HF. It has reported outages every night lasting from midnight to 8am. It says this affects 3G (900MHz and 2100MHz) but that may not be accurate as all the other nearby masts use 2100MHz for 4G instead.

      The other O2 mast in Stroud at GL5 1LW is reported as 4G overcapacity.

      Hope this helps.

    4. Avatar photo Ade says:

      To mark – A new transmitter has been put up just near the A38 Branston junction in the new comercial park.

  3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    yep previously a gigabit 5G user.
    now I average around 250mbit. Still very useable but an absolutely massive drop.
    This is on three in Cambridgeshire.

  4. Avatar photo William Marshall says:

    I have noticed a huge drop in speed from 4G and 5G in the last 6 months with EE in Lincolnshire, also the signal strength has depleted in many areas giving even more not spots, what is going on EE ?

  5. Avatar photo I Cunningham says:

    I live in the north of Surrey and work in London. When I first got 5G with EE it was brilliant reliable good signal and fast. I have noticed recently that I am having to rely more and more on connecting to wifi for reliable data. When I report it TO EE they always come back with no know problems in your area. 5G is not what it was promised.

  6. Avatar photo james smith says:

    let’s have some optamism. here in south warwickshire where I live. Three whenn measured from speedtest dot net, over the last year the likelyhood of 500 meg download has increased. The ping has got better too

  7. Avatar photo Jason says:

    Three really made a good jump over the past few years… Can’t complain so far – switched to iD recently

  8. Avatar photo Stephen Wakeman says:

    Not sure about other providers but EE tier the different data allowances with speeds now too. So you can 25/125/Uncapped max speeds. Given that most speeds even on 5G don’t exceed 125Mb anyway, what incentive is there to pay extra for no cap?

  9. Avatar photo Chris says:

    The issue has always been the same, to many users not enough backhaul I still get 200Mbs+ around 3:00am but try again at 13:00 and we’re down to less than 5Mbs. The issue is Contention anyone using a fixed line by law can only share the connection with upto 50 other users. But there is no comparible legislation for 4/5g as Ofcom have never seen it as a viable long term solution. yet cowed down to the might of BT & so allowed it’s use in the USO.
    No matter the technology 4/5/6g it will never live upto it’s potential untill legislation is put in place to ensure specific contention ratio’s are adhered to.

    1. Avatar photo Sunil Sood says:

      What law do you think limits contention/sharing on fixed lines to a maximum of 50 users?

  10. Avatar photo Blake says:

    3g when was new it worked great, when 4g was announced it was going to be amazing then slowly became not much better than 3g. Then there’s 5g all the hoorah of how marvelous it will be. On a good day yes 300+Mbps. However on Brighton beach on a busy day less than 1Mbps on three sim and O2 sim obviously don’t even bother doesn’t work at all. Not really what it was portrayed as, again congestion still an issue.

    Switch phone to 3g only though and it flies at 10Mbps better than 4 or 5G.

  11. Avatar photo David Lomax says:

    Hi Ade. I’m also in Branston and I did extensive research and testing on EE 5G in the area. Mark is correct that the only real 5G bands come from the tower on top of the college in the town center. All other masts advertise their service to clients as 5G, but is indirect and kind of a lie. All other towers including the new one are 4G only. As you might expect, here in the UK we implemented the cheaper “Non-standalone” 5G, rather than “standalone”. Even though you get a full 5G signal, your device is lying to you. You’ve got a full 4G signal from a local mast and a ‘referral’ to a 5G tower, basically. I ‘solved’ it by putting 4 directional antennas high on a pole on my roof, aimed at the college. It still prefers the stronger, closer tower, and the only way around it is to mess around switching off bands to make it see the college tower and use it’s 5G. Then I get about 250-400 Mbps, but it’s hard work!

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