How fast is 5G?

28 May 2021

Contents list

  1. How fast is 5G?
  2. 5G network speeds
    1. Maximum 5G speeds
    2. EE 5G speeds
    3. Three 5G speeds
    4. Vodafone 5G speeds
    5. O2 5G speeds
    6. MVNO 5G speeds
  3. How to check 5G download speeds
  4. 5G latency
  5. Future 5G download speeds
  6. Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

5G is rolling out across the UK on every major network, and brings with it far higher speeds than 4G with a theoretical maximum speed of between 10 and 50Gbps, according to the regulatory body Ofcom.

We’re not at that level yet, but reported peak download speeds have already reached 753Mbps (based on a Point Topic / Thinkbroadband report from late 2020) and some networks claim that speeds of upwards of 1Gbps are already being experienced.

Average download speeds are currently up to six times faster than 4G and twenty five times faster than 3G, and 5G is already faster than fibre broadband in many areas around the UK. 

1) How fast is 5G?

Network type

Average download speeds

Peak download speeds

Theoretical maximum download speeds

3G

7.4Mbps

~20Mbps

42Mbps

4G

36.4Mbps

90+Mbps

300Mbps

5G

100Mbps-200Mbps

753Mbps+

10-50Gbps

Based on the currently available data from RootMetrics, Point Topic, Opensignal and other validated tests, across the UK’s networks you can expect average 5G download speeds of between 100Mbps – 200Mbps. The exact figures will vary from network to network and place to place, but the averages recorded will normally to be in that range.

Point Topic for its part claims that as of September 2020, the average 5G download speed across the UK’s networks is 148Mbps, with the median being 128Mbps.

The peak meanwhile was recorded at 753Mbps – that’s the highest recent figure we’ve seen from independent tests (carried out by Point Topic / Thinkbroadband).

For the 4G and 3G average download speeds in the chart above we’ve used the highest average speeds on Ofcom’s Mobile Network Experience Update from October 2020.

Currently, you can expect 5G to be between around 3 and 6 times faster than 4G on average, but in some cases that difference is much greater. For example, Vodafone’s median 5G speed in London as recorded by RootMetrics in the second half of 2020 was 216.6Mbps, which is over 11 times faster than the 18.7Mbps median speed it recorded on 4G.

And 5G is set to get faster as time goes on, with theoretical speeds that could be hundreds of times faster than 4G, based on the 10-50Gbps estimate from Ofcom.

2) 5G network speeds

2.1 Maximum 5G speeds in the UK

While 5G is fast, exactly how fast will depend in part on where you are and what network you’re on, but we’re now getting a good picture of the general speeds you can expect. Below you can see details of actual maximum speeds that tests by Point Topic and / Thinkbroadband and RootMetrics have achieved with each network .

Network

Maximum download speeds (via Point Topic)

Maximum download speeds (via RootMetrics)

EE

753Mbps

388.4Mbps in London

Three

473Mbps

478.1Mbps

Vodafone

415Mbps

545.6Mbps in London

O2

247Mbps

302.1Mbps in London

At the time of writing, the results in the chart above are the highest 5G download speeds we’ve seen reported for each network.

That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the fastest each is capable of – for most of the RootMetrics results the speeds here were only tested in London for one thing.

We also have less data on O2 than the other networks, which means it might be capable of much more than the rather modest maximum recorded speeds above.

Still, the speeds in the chart above should be towards the very top end of what you can expect from at least EE, Three and Vodafone at the time of writing.

Note that the RootMetrics results above aren’t all from the same study, as we’ve simply used the highest numbers. Those for Vodafone and O2 were recorded in the ‘UK Mobile Performance in Review 2H 2020’ report, while those for EE and Three were taken from an earlier report covering the first half of 2020.

2.2.) EE 5G download speeds

EE 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speeds of 149.8 / 149.9Mbps – Opensignal/Point Topic

Median 5G download speed of 167.5 / 130 / 134.7Mbps – Rootmetrics/Point Topic/Speedtest

Maximum 5G download speed of 753Mbps – Point Topic

At the time of writing, EE’s 5G network is one of the most widely available, and as such there’s generally more data available than for some of the other networks.

First up, Point Topic and Thinkbroadband have provided average, median, and maximum 5G download speeds for EE based on its tests. As of September 2020 then EE’s average UK-wide 5G speed is reportedly 149.9Mbps, its median is 130Mbps, and its maximum is 753Mbps (which it achieved in Paisley). The report also found that EE delivered a maximum 5G download speed in Greater London of 397Mbps.

Speedtest data from Q3 2020 meanwhile states that EE has a UK-wide median download speed of 134.76Mbps, which is very similar to the above, while RootMetrics in tests covering the second half of 2020 found that its fastest median 5G download speed was 143.6Mbps – that speed was recorded in Hull.

Opensignal found in data collected between January 31 and April 30, 2020, that EE’s average 5G download speed across the UK was 149.8Mbps (which is almost identical to the Point Topic data). For reference, its average 4G download speed during that period was found to be 33.1Mbps, making 5G almost five times faster in this instance.

RootMetrics meanwhile found that EE had a median 5G download speed of at least 106.5Mbps in all 16 cities that were tested. That’s a lot lower than Opensignal’s findings, despite this data being newer (covering the second half of 2020), but that’s the minimum median hit in any of the cities – EE’s highest median was 143.6Mbps, achieved in Hull. That figure is almost identical to Opensignal’s.

RootMetrics also took a deep dive into the results it found for London, reporting that EE’s median 5G download speed there was 136.8Mbps, and that its maximum 5G download speed in London was found to be 388.1Mbps – which is similar to what Point Topic found.

Since those tests, RootMetrics has come back with a newer report covering the first half of 2021, but this time only covering Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, and London. In this, it found that EE’s highest median 5G download speed across these cities was 167.5Mbps (recorded in Birmingham). That’s one of the fastest speeds of any network on test, but its median results in London were more disappointing at 126Mbps.

These average and median speeds are broadly in line with – or even slightly faster than - what EE has said to expect. Originally it had said to expect average speeds that are 100-150Mbps faster than 4G, with peak speeds of potentially over 1Gbps. More recently though in its ‘5G speeds explained’ article it’s made the more modest claim of roughly 100Mbps maximum speeds currently, and said that 1Gbps won’t likely be achieved until all EE’s 5G infrastructure is up and running.

So based on all the available data, we’d say that EE’s average 5G download speeds are in the region of 130Mbps – 170Mbps, while its peak speeds are at least around 753Mbps.

EE 5G coverage checker

2.3) Three 5G download speeds

Three 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speed of 158.7Mbps – Point Topic

Median 5G download speed of 130.1 / 122 / 201.1Mbps – Rootmetrics/Point Topic/Speedtest

Maximum overall 5G download speed of 478.1Mbps - RootMetrics

We don’t have quite as much speed data for Three as EE, but it was included in the same major Point Topic report, which found that Three’s maximum UK-wide 5G download speed was 473Mbps (recorded in Walsall), its average was 158.7Mbps, and its median was 122Mbps.The report also found that Three’s maximum 5G download speed in Greater London was 410Mbps.

It’s worth noting though that according to Speedtest data from Q3 2020 Three has a UK-wide median download speed of 201.12Mbps, which is much higher than the figure above.

Three was also included in the same RootMetrics reports as EE, with the latest one (from the first half of 2021) finding that Three’s highest median 5G download speed in the four tested cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, and London) was 130.1Mbps, recorded in Coventry. That’s more in line with the Point Topic data, and notably Three’s median 5G speed was lower than any other network in all these cities – except Coventry, where Vodafone didn’t have any 5G presence at the time of the tests. Its median 5G speed in London was recorded as 106.7Mbps.

An earlier RootMetrics report from the second half of 2020 also found that it achieved a lower fastest median 5G download speed than any other UK network. This speed was 137.2Mbps, and was recorded in Belfast. Interestingly, in an even earlier RootMetrics report it had the highest at 193.7Mbps, which was recorded in Leicester.

Its median in London in the 2H 2020 report was even lower at 114.7Mbps, but Three’s median 4G speed in London according to the same tests was just 13.9Mbps, so its 5G experience makes for an enormous upgrade.

Where Three does better according to this RootMetrics data though is in its maximum 5G download speed, as in London that was found to be 358.5Mbps, which is in line with EE and ahead of O2, but behind Vodafone. In earlier RootMetrics tests Three managed the highest overall maximum of 478.1Mbps (recorded in Liverpool).

Three itself hasn’t been very specific about what speeds you can expect on its network, but it has said that at the top end they could be up to twice as fast as rivals, due to it having both more 5G spectrum in total and more contiguous 5G spectrum. These current results don’t show speeds that are quite double, but they are higher.

Based on the data that we have then, Three’s average 5G speeds seem to be between around 115Mbps and 200Mbps, while its peak 5G download speeds are at least around 480Mbps, but likely higher.

Three 5G coverage checker

2.4) Vodafone 5G download speeds

Vodafone 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speed of 143.6Mbps – Point Topic

Median 5G download speed of 153.2 / 129 / 152.1Mbps – Rootmetrics/Point Topic/Speedtest

Maximum London 5G download speed of 545.6Mbps – RootMetrics

We have a similar amount of 5G speed data for Vodafone as for EE – which is to say more than we have for Three or O2.

But let’s start with a report that covers all the networks – one from Point Topic with data from September 2020. This states that Vodafone’s UK-wide average 5G download speed is 143.6Mbps, its median is 129Mbps, and its maximum (recorded in Brent) is 415Mbps.

According to Speedtest data from Q3 2020 meanwhile, Vodafone has a UK-wide median download speed of 152.17Mbps, which is a bit better than the figure above.

There’s also an Opensignal report which found that across the UK, Vodafone offered average 5G download speeds of 122.1Mbps between January 31 and April 30, 2020. That’s compared to just an average of 23.5Mbps on 4G, so around five times faster on 5G.

The bulk of our speed data though comes from a couple of RootMetrics reports, with the newest (from the first half of 2021) detailing median 5G download speeds in Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, and London. Of those, Vodafone’s highest was recorded in Birmingham, where it recorded a median 5G speed of 153.2Mbps. Its London result meanwhile was 136Mbps.

An earlier but wider RootMetrics report meanwhile found that in all 16 tested cities Vodafone had a median 5G download speed of at least 81.6Mbps. Its fastest 5G median meanwhile was 216.6Mbps, recorded in London. That’s the fastest median any network recorded in London (or anywhere else) in these tests. It’s also over 11 times faster than the network’s median 4G speed in the city of 18.7Mbps. That said, it’s also a lot faster than in the more recent report above, so it seems Vodafone’s speeds there have either dropped, or are just very inconsistent.

Speaking of London, Vodafone’s top 5G download speed was excellent there too in this older RootMetrics report, coming in at 545.6Mbps, and beating every other network.

Vodafone itself has said to expect average 5G speeds of 150-200Mbps, with peak speeds exceeding 1Gbps. While its peak speeds in tests don’t seem to reach that level, its average speeds do seem to be broadly in that range, albeit towards the bottom end of that.

Based on the data we have it seems Vodafone’s average 5G download speeds are in the ballpark of 80-215Mbps, with peak speeds of at least around 545Mbps, and possibly higher.

Vodafone 5G coverage checker

2.5) O2 5G download speeds

O2 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speed of 115.7Mbps – Point Topic

Median 5G download speed of 193 / 103 / 176.9Mbps – Rootmetrics/Point Topic/Speedtest

Maximum London 5G download speed of 302.1Mbps – RootMetrics

O2 is the major UK network that we have the least data on regarding 5G speeds, but there are still lots of things that we can say.

First of all, according to Point Topic data from September 2020, O2 has an average UK-wide 5G download speed of 115.7Mbps, a median of 103Mbps, and a maximum (recorded outside Glasgow) of 247Mbps.

Speedtest meanwhile found in Q3 2020 that O2’s median 5G download speed across the UK was 176.9Mbps, which is a lot better than the above.

In a RootMetrics report covering Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, and London for the first half of 2021, its highest median 5G speed was 193Mbps. That was recorded in Birmingham and was higher than any median achieved by any other network in any city in these tests. O2 also achieved a median of 177.5Mbps in London, which beat every other network there too, and it also achieved the highest median speed in Coventry.

O2 is also included in the 2H 2020 RootMetrics report, which found that its fastest median 5G speed was 178.9Mbps (recorded in Belfast), and that its median 5G speed in London was 145Mbps. Its fastest 5G download speed in London meanwhile was 302.1Mbps.

Late 2019 data from Ookla has additionally found that O2 has average 5G download speeds across the UK of 159.48Mbps, which is slightly better.

O2 itself hasn’t yet said much about its 5G speeds, but based on this very limited data it seems that you can potentially expect average download speeds of between around 115Mbps and 195Mbps, with peak speeds potentially being around 302Mbps – though once O2’s 5G coverage improves and more data rolls in, we’d expect the figures to improve.

O2 5G coverage checker

2.6) MVNO 5G download speeds

MVNO Network

Core Network

Expected Average 5G download speed

Expected maximum 5G download speeds

BT

EE

130-170Mbps

753Mbps+

Sky Mobile

O2

115-195Mbps

302Mbps+

Tesco Mobile

O2

115-195Mbps

302Mbps+

Giffgaff

O2

115-195Mbps

302Mbps+

VOXI

Vodafone

80-215Mbps

545Mbps+

Virgin Mobile

Vodafone

80-215Mbps

545Mbps+

Asda Mobile

Vodafone

80-215Mbps

545Mbps+

iD Mobile

Three

115-200Mbps

478Mbps+

As well as the main four UK networks, a number of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) have also launched 5G services. At the time of writing those include BT MobileSky MobileGiffgaffTesco MobileVirgin Mobile, Asda Mobile, iD Mobile and VOXI.

Starting with BT Mobile, while we don’t have much data on it, we can expect its performance to be similar to EE’s, since BT owns EE and they share infrastructure. As such you can read EE’s section above for full details, but in short, BT Mobile’s average 5G download speeds are likely to be around 130-170Mbps, with peak speeds potentially hitting around 753Mbps.

Sky Mobile, Giffgaff and Tesco Mobile all use O2’s infrastructure, so check out O2’s section above for a picture of what you might be able to expect. Average 5G download speeds could be in the region of 115-195Mbps based on the data that we have, with peak speeds of at least around 302Mbps. Tesco for its part has said to expect average download speeds of around 200Mbps.

Then there’s iD Mobile, which uses Three’s infrastructure, and based on the various data we have so far for that network could have average 5G speeds in roughly the range of 115-200Mbps, with peak speeds upwards of 478Mbps.

Finally, VOXI is owned by Vodafone and therefore uses that network’s infrastructure, as does Virgin Mobile. Based on the data we have for Vodafone then, you might be able to expect average 5G download speeds in the region of 80-215Mbps, with peak speeds of likely at least around 545Mbps.

Speeds in some cases could be higher though, as VOXI has mirrored Vodafone in claiming that its 5G download speeds average 150-200Mbps and top out at roughly 1Gbps.

We’d also take all these numbers with a pinch of salt, because – as the detailed main network sections above show – they’re extremely variable, even on a single network in a single city.

3) How to check 5G download speeds

Testing what 5G speed you’re really getting is easy, as a number of sites and apps will do the job. Before opting for any of them though make sure you’re actually connected to 5G rather than a Wi-Fi network or 4G. To do this, turn Wi-Fi off on your phone, and check for an icon saying ‘5G’ on your phone’s status bar.

Then, one of the simplest options to test your speed is simply to enter the address fast.com into your mobile browser. It will then instantly start a speed test. The main speed displayed is your download speed, but if you hit the ‘show more info’ button you can also see your upload speed.

If you’d rather use an app then one of the best options is Speedtest by Ookla, a popular app available on both iOS and Android. Once it’s up and running hit ‘Go’ and it will first test your download and then your upload speed.

4) 5G latency

Network Type

Milliseconds (ms)

3G Network

58.2ms (actual)*

4G Network

36ms (actual)*

5G Network

21ms (actual)** / 1ms (theoretical)

* Figures show the lowest average latency of any network according to April 2020 Opensignal data.
** Figure shows the lowest average latency of any network according to late 2019 Ookla data.

Latency is how long it takes the network to respond to a request, which could be you trying to play a song or video or load a website for example. The network has to respond before it even starts loading, which can lead to minor but perceptible lag and is especially problematic for online games, as each input has a new response time.

Over 3G those response times are typically around 60 milliseconds (ms) and on 4G they’re around half that at roughly 35ms. The theory is that on 5G response times will ultimately drop to just 1ms, which will be completely imperceptible.

That will help with all the things we use data for now, but more than that it’s necessary for new mobile data uses, such as self-driving cars, which need to respond to inputs and changes in situation immediately.

As with speeds though, super low latency won’t be achieved on day one, with studies from Ookla showing an average 5G latency in late 2019 of between 21ms and 26ms.

We also have more up to date data for central London, where according to RootMetrics, Three has a 5G latency of a mere 17ms, with Vodafone being second lowest at 34ms, and EE's only achieving 45ms. O2 meanwhile didn’t have a 5G presence in London at the time of the tests.

5) Future 5G download speeds

As 5G evolves and becomes less dependent on 4G infrastructure, and more spectrum becomes available, estimates put download speeds at up to 1000 times faster than 4G, potentially exceeding 10Gbps, which would enable you to download an entire HD film in less than a second. Some estimates are more conservative, but even the most conservative put it at several dozen times faster than 4G.

Some insane speeds well beyond today’s 5G speeds have already been seen. The UK’s 5G Innovation Centre achieved around 1 terabit per second (1Tbps) in a test environment. That’s roughly 65,000 times faster than typical 4G speeds and would enable you to download a file around 100 times larger than a full movie in just 3 seconds. However, such speeds are unlikely to be replicated in the real world.

Ofcom for its part sees 5G as achieving real world speeds of between 10 and 50Gbps, which is insanely fast whichever end of the scale it ends up at. These numbers are all very impressive, but what do they actually mean?

According to AT&T, at 1Gbps you can download 25 songs in under a second, a TV show in under three seconds, and an HD movie in less than 36 seconds. These rates are currently available over its fixed GigaPower ultra-fast internet service and it has indicated the same will be possible over 5G at 1Gbps. Qualcomm, on announcing its X50 5G modem in October 2016, said it would be able to download a 1.5GB film in two to three seconds, compared with 10 to 15 seconds at 1Gbps.

As speeds approach 10Gbps, film downloads will become near instantaneous, and with all this extra speed whole new use cases become far more viable, such as streamed console-quality games, 8K video, and even holographic content.

Even at the speeds people are getting now, 5G can rival fibre broadband, which is why we’re starting to see 5G home broadband services. Most conventional fibre broadband services only provide speeds of under 100Mbps, and even at the top end it’s rare to get more than a few hundred Mbps, so based on the 5G speeds above, it’s a clear alternative.

6) Frequently asked questions

How fast is 5G in the UK?

Based on the available data, 5G in the UK seems to offer average speeds of 100-200Mbps – though that figure varies based on network and location.

How fast is 5G home broadband?

5G home broadband speeds are variable, and affected by your network, your coverage, your 5G router, and other things. That said, its speeds should generally be in line with 5G mobile (meaning an average of likely between 100-200Mbps). But peak speeds could be far higher than that. Three for example has said that its 5G broadband speeds top out at 1.6Gbps.

Can I do my own 5G speed test?

Yes, and there are many websites and apps that allow for this. One of the simplest ways is just to head to fast.com while connected to a 5G network. This will then automatically start carrying out a speed test.

Is 5G faster than Wi-Fi?

5G can be faster than Wi-Fi. It depends on what Wi-Fi is available to you and what your 5G signal is like, but it’s certainly a strong alternative.

Is 5G faster than fibre broadband?

5G can rival the speediest fibre broadband connections. Whether or not it’s faster depends on a number of factors, but in most cases unless you have access to the very speediest fibre broadband packages it probably will be.

How fast is 5G versus 4G?

5G is much, much faster than 4G. Average 5G speeds seem to be between 3 and 6 times faster than average 4G speeds based on the available data, with peak 5G speeds being far faster still.

Is 5G gaining importance?

Very much so. Demands for fast and reliable mobile connectivity continue to grow, and with them so too does the need for 5G. RootMetrics even found in an extensive survey that 85% of respondents believed 5G would help them or their company make more money, 84% believe 5G will allow them to share more content on social media, 83% believe it will allow them to work more flexibly from different locations, and 80% believe it will significantly reduce travel time and free up time for productivity. So there’s clearly a great appetite for 5G.

What is 4G LTE?

4G LTE is the generation of mobile technology that came before 5G. So it’s a lot slower but it’s also far more widely available. Even if you have a 5G phone and plan, you’ll often find yourself on 4G when you leave 5G coverage areas.

What is Mbps?

Mbps stands for ‘Megabits per second’ and it’s used as a measure of internet connection speeds. So the more megabits per second, the faster a network is. Note that it shouldn’t be confused with MBps (megabytes per second).

James Rogerson
About James Rogerson

Sub-Editor at 5G.co.uk

James is sub-editor at both 5G.co.uk and TechRadar. Also works as a researcher/ technical writer for 5G.co.uk and several other websites including TechRadar, T3, Smart TV Radar, 3G.co.uk with work on the web, in print and on TV.

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