How fast is 5G?

1 September 2020

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 478.1Mbps (based on data from RootMetrics in the first half of 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

7.9Mbps

~20Mbps

42Mbps

4G

35.9Mbps

90+Mbps

300Mbps

5G

100Mbps-200Mbps

478.1Mbps+

10-50Gbps

Based on the currently available data from RootMetrics, 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.

The peak meanwhile was recorded at 478.1Mbps – that’s the highest recent figure we’ve seen from independent tests (carried out by RootMetrics).

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 April 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, as noted below, Vodafone’s median 5G speed in London as recorded by RootMetrics was 181.8Mbps, which is over 11 times faster than the 15.8Mbps 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 RootMetrics have achieved with each network .

Network

Maximum downloads speeds (RootMetrics)

EE

388.4Mbps in London

Three

478.1Mbps

Vodafone

402.2Mbps in London

O2

146.4Mbps in London

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

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

We also have very little data on O2, which means it might be capable of much more than the rather modest maximum recorded speed 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.

2.2.) EE 5G download speeds

EE 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speeds of 149.8Mbps - Opensignal

Median 5G download speed of 138.1Mbps in London - RootMetrics

Maximum 5G download speed of 388.4Mbps in London - RootMetrics

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

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. 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.

more detailed set of tests by RootMetrics meanwhile found that EE had a median 5G download speed of at least 103.9Mbps in all 16 cities that were tested, namely Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds & Bradford, Leicester, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield. That’s a lot lower than Opensignal’s findings, despite this data being at least as new (covering the first half of 2020), but that’s the minimum median hit in any of the cities – EE’s highest median was 145.9Mbps, achieved in Newcastle. 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 138.1Mbps, and that its maximum 5G download speed in London was found to be 388.4Mbps. These average speeds are broadly in line with 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.

That said, actual peak speeds may in some cases be higher than the 388.4Mbps one reported by RootMetrics above. In earlier tests, for example, the same source found that EE managed top 5G speeds of 450.9Mbps in Birmingham.

So based on all the available data, we’d say that EE’s average 5G download speeds are in the region of 100-150Mbps, while its peak speeds are at least around 450Mbps.

EE 5G coverage checker

2.3) Three 5G download speeds

Three 5G

Median 5G download speed of 133.8Mbps in London - RootMetrics

Maximum 5G download speed of 463Mbps in London - RootMetrics

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 RootMetrics report, which found that it achieved a higher median 5G download speed than any other UK network. This speed was 193.7Mbps, and it was recorded in Leicester.

Its median in London was much lower at 133.8Mbps, but that’s still roughly in line with EE, and Three’s median 4G speed in London according to the same tests was just 16.1Mbps, so its 5G experience makes for an enormous upgrade.

Where Three really seems to excel according to this RootMetrics data though is in its maximum 5G download speeds, as in London that was found to be 463Mbps, which is higher than any rival managed in the city, and Three also managed the highest overall maximum in these tests 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 130Mbps 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 speeds of 122.1Mbps - Opensignal

Median 5G download speed of 181.8Mbps in London - RootMetrics

Maximum 5G download speed of 402.2Mbps in London - 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.

That includes 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 RootMetrics, which found that in 9 out of 10 cities where 5G tests were carried out on the network it achieved a median download speed of at least 112Mbps. Its fastest 5G median meanwhile was 181.8Mbps, recorded in London. That’s the fastest median any network recorded in London, and faster than any median speeds recorded by EE or O2 in these tests. It’s also over 11 times faster than the network’s median 4G speed in the city of 15.8Mbps.

Speaking of London, Vodafone’s top 5G download speed was good there too, coming in at 402.2Mbps, and beaten only by Three.

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.

Based on the data we have it seems Vodafone’s average 5G download speeds are in the ballpark of 110-180Mbps, with peak speeds of at least around 400Mbps, and possibly higher.

Vodafone 5G coverage checker

2.5) O2 5G download speeds

O2 5G

Average UK-wide 5G download speeds of 159.48Mbps - Ookla

Median 5G download speed of 121.3Mbps in Belfast - RootMetrics

Maximum 5G download speed of 146.4Mbps in London - RootMetrics

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

It’s included in the main RootMetrics report, but in a limited fashion, as coverage wasn’t good enough to properly test it in all areas. What the report found was that O2’s median 5G download speed in Belfast was 121.3Mbps. This was the only median RootMetrics was able to obtain for the network, though it also reported a maximum 5G download speed of 146.4Mbps in London.

Neither of those speeds are particularly impressive, but nor are they likely to be as representative of the network’s capabilities as tests on other networks are.

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 120Mbps and 160Mbps, with peak speeds potentially not being much higher than that – 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

100-150Mbps

450Mbps+

Sky Mobile

O2

120-160Mbps

TBC

Tesco Mobile

O2

120-160Mbps

TBC

VOXI

Vodafone

110-180Mbps

400Mbps+

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 MobileTesco 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 between around 100Mbps and 150Mbps, with peak speeds potentially hitting around 450Mbps.

Sky Mobile and Tesco Mobile both use O2’s infrastructure, so check out O2’s section above for a picture of what you might be able to expect. That said, there’s less data for O2 than other major networks, and therefore the picture is less clear, but average 5G download speeds could be in the region of 120-160Mbps based on the data that we do have. Tesco for its part has said to expect average download speeds of around 200Mbps.

Finally, VOXI is owned by Vodafone and therefore uses that network’s infrastructure. Based on the data we have for Vodafone then, you might be able to expect average 5G download speeds in the region of 110-180Mbps, with peak speeds of likely at least around 400Mbps.

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.

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.

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

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).

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 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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

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.

View more posts by James Rogerson >

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