Michelle Donegan is a tech writer who has covered the communications industry for more than 25 years on both sides of the pond. Having worked for various industry titles, including Communications Week International, Total Telecom and Light Reading, she specializes in mobile network technology trends.
5G is supposed to be faster than the mobile services UK consumers use today and test results by RootMetrics on early 5G networks have already shown high speeds. 5G isn’t yet widely available in the UK, but it is certainly very fast.
RootMetrics by IHS Markit tested network performance during the second half of last year on all four UK mobile network operators -- EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – in three different conditions: across the entire UK, in each of the four UK nations and in the 16 largest metropolitan areas.
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For UK-wide network performance, EE achieved the highest results with the fastest aggregate median download speed of 36.5 Mbps and best marks for network reliability, speed and data performance.
A closer look at how the network operators performed in the biggest metropolitan areas shows where the higher speeds and capacity of 5G can potentially make a difference for consumers through better services. Where there are many more users in small areas, like major cities, networks can become congested causing speed and reliability to suffer.
For example, EE’s UK-wide median download speed was 36.5 Mbps, but in London EE clocked in at 30 Mbps and in Edinburgh, EE offered the fastest download speed of 29 Mbps. In Manchester and London, Vodafone delivered the fastest download speeds of 53.9 Mbps and 46.4 Mbps, respectively.
In RootMetrics’ 5G network tests, EE’s download speed in London was three times faster than its non-5G median download speed, while Vodafone’s 5G speed in London was more than 2.5 times faster than its non-5G speed.
The early 5G speed tests conducted during the summer and fall of 2019 show the potential for future 5G services, according to RootMetrics. For consumers, having faster network speeds means mobile streaming experiences will be better and downloading content will take less time.
Where 5G is available, the speeds are so far impressive. But it is early days for 5G in the UK and availability is limited. This will change as operators continue to build out 5G network coverage. RootMetrics’ tests showed 60.6% availability on EE’s 5G network in London, 51.6% in Birmingham and 43.4% in Cardiff. Meanwhile, availability on Vodafone’s 5G network was 21.7% in London, 10.8% in Birmingham and 14% in Cardiff.
O2 and Three had not launched commercial 5G services at the time of testing, but RootMetrics plans further tests later this year.
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