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Three UK Tops Ookla H2 2023 Study of 5G Mobile Broadband Speeds

Friday, Feb 9th, 2024 (12:01 am) - Score 1,520
5g mast on smartphone uk mobile

Internet connection testing firm Ookla, which collects its data via the popular Speedtest.net service, recently published their latest Q3-Q4 2023 (H2) study into the performance of 5G based mobile broadband networks in the United Kingdom and found that Three UK continues to deliver the fastest speeds. But performance has declined.

Mobile data performance remains a difficult thing to pin down because related users 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.

All of the above can impact your service, and that’s before we even consider the other issues, such as network (backhaul) capacity at different cell sites or differing spectrum ownership between mobile operators. Nevertheless, Ookla’s latest study attempts to illuminate all this by comparing 1,076,761 user-initiated 5G tests, taken via their Speedtest iOS and Android mobile apps (using 339,093 devices), from all the major UK mobile operators.

The results show that Three UK continued to deliver the fastest 5G mobile download speeds (median) on 226.27Mbps, but that’s down sharply from 265.75Mbps in H1 2023 and 292.57Mbps in H2 2022. By comparison, the other operators have hardly changed. Three UK also came top for upload speed (13.14Mbps), although EE returned the best latency score of 30ms (milliseconds).

Ookla’s UK 5G Mobile Speeds for H2 2023 (vs H1 2023)

Median Download Speed
Three UK – 226.27Mbps (265.75Mbps)
Vodafone – 141.71Mbps (140.27Mbps)
EE – 94.79Mbps (99.06Mbps)
O2 – 70.43Mbps (70.88Mbps)

Median Upload Speed
Three UK – 13.14Mbps (13.03Mbps)
Vodafone – 12.21Mbps (13.72Mbps)
EE – 12.06Mbps (12.88Mbps)
O2 – 8.93Mbps (8.98Mbps)

Median Latency (lower figures are faster)
EE – 30ms (31ms)
Vodafone – 31ms (30ms)
Three UK – 31ms (34ms)
O2 – 33ms (32ms)

Aside from the significant fall in Three UK’s 5G download speeds, most of the other network operators have been fairly static and sadly that also means little change for O2 (Virgin Media), which remains stuck squarely at the bottom of the performance table. Ookla also included some city-specific results for 5G speeds in London, Birmingham and Manchester, which you can see below.


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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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15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo anon says:

    ” But performance has declined. ”

    understatement of the year. We went from 1250mbit to less than 100. We complained to three. Who promptly blamed our equipment and moving it around and the area it’s been placed in. This despite me telling them it’s an external 5G modem permanently attached to the side of my house and hasn’t moved in years. They don’t care. They just fob you off and blame you, your area, your equipment. I gave them their marching orders, and all of a sudden two of my data only SIMs are having trouble connecting.

    Done with three. They went from best data network, to barely working.

    1. Avatar photo Gf says:

      Go with ee the uk fastest 4g+ network upto over 400 mbps.

  2. Avatar photo Jimbo says:

    As more people use more data ,the bandwidths on masts and back haul always suffer.

    I’ve left three for the second time as as speeds have dropped from 300-400Mbps to a a sub 80-100Mb on 5G in the space of 12 month’s.

  3. Avatar photo GSHOCK says:

    Sorry for an off topic but related to Three comment. How is it CCTV poles have no objections from NIMBYs? however they object to Three monopoles. There are like six CCTV poles going up in a town near me. Im not sure if these cameras have facial ID but from the limited info they look like theyll be those really tall poles with the black bubble. Do CCTV poles even go through a planning permission, local residents opinions etc process?

  4. Avatar photo Andrewp says:

    Two new 3 masts shot up last autumn near my house – one 300 metres away, the othere 600.
    The local 3 shop staff said they would be up and running.
    6 months later, neither are operating.
    So frustrating after I switched because of the promised improvement compared to EE, who I was with.

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      You shouldn’t base your choice of mobile operator in terms of what indoor coverage you may get at home or anywhere else.
      That’s what wi-fi is for.
      Invest in a different wi-fi setup at home and switch on wi-fi calling.

    2. Avatar photo Declan McGuinness says:

      @Mark EE Wifi calling is total pony another reason why I left EE due to numerous missed calls through WiFi calling when sitting right next to the router in the house

    3. Avatar photo V says:

      @ Andrewp have a look on bidb and mastdatabase. Most likely the fibre hasnt been connected. Ive seen some poles built like a year ago and on bidb, mastdatabase, onenetwork the fibre by cityfibre or openreach work is set for like March & May 2024

    4. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      Same here. I’m convinced wifi calling is a complete scam and useless for any practical purposes. Was on the phone with Sky last week and the call quality was atrocious – kept dropping and they could barely hear me. Was on WiFi Call and about a metre away from the wireless access point.

  5. Avatar photo Jammie1408 says:

    I think the EE median speed at 100mbps, maybe due to there speeds cap via different plans. 10/100/unlimited.

    I have to admit that Smarty(Three) has been mega fast and better 5G, but it’s not always available and there 4G is still terrible.

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      You’re absolutely right, and these speed caps make a mockery of these crowd sourced results.

      Also, what is important is not speed, as very few users need these colossal download speeds.
      (4K streaming only needs around 25Mbs, but why does anyone need to stream 4K on a tiny screen while they are out about)
      What users need is solid ubiquitous network coverage and capacity everywhere.

    2. Avatar photo CJ says:

      @Mark This website is primarily about broadband (including mobile broadband) not mobile phones. The heading of the article says it is about 5G mobile broadband speeds.

      Those of us using a mobile network for home broadband need fast speeds and good reliability at home, not solid coverage elsewhere. All my 4K streaming is over a mobile network.

    3. Avatar photo JP says:

      This is a good point made here, however maybe EE is angling a different way now, I think they are happy with the customer base and are more focused on retaining and upselling more services to the existing base than growing it.

      The network already has a very healthy uptake now with the onboarding of MVNO’s.

    4. Avatar photo Declan McGuinness says:

      Vodafone implement speed caps too on some plans even one plan at 2mbps and another at 10 mbps and have had these for a few years with Vodafone basics and Asda mobile so not convinced.

    5. Avatar photo JP says:

      Vodafone only limit pay monthly unlimited plans, most people don’t tend to take unlimted data from Vodafone due to cost unless its through an MVNO such as Voxi/Lebera/Talk Mobile and they are not speed restricted either.

      A lot of EE entry level plans and PAYG is limited to 25Mbps/100Mbps.

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