With all four major UK operators now having deployed 5G and therefore allowing for quality analysis to be gathered, research shows that EE has topped the latest RootMetrics six-month analysis of the state of UK mobile networks for the first half of 2020.
The analyst said that, with all four operators having launched 5G in the UK, the first half of 2020 marks the first test period in which it used 5G-enabled devices to measure performance on both 4G LTE and 5G infrastructures of EE, Vodafone, Three and O2.
Noting that it believes 5G users will likely switch from 5G to 4G LTE, or vice versa, during a typical mobile activity, the metrics in the report reflect performance across all network technologies, including 5G where available.
Data was collected across the UK’s 16 largest metropolitan cities, as defined by the Eurostat’s Larger Urban Zone (LUZ). This metro area testing is designed to characterise network performance as a whole across an entire metropolitan market.
During the 5G testing in 2019, RootMetrics tested 5G performance shortly after EE and Vodafone had launched 5G in Birmingham, Cardiff, and London. During that study, tests were largely conducted in known areas of 5G deployment, and a large portion of tests carried out while walking, concentrating on densely populated city centres in each market, rather than across the entirety of each city. As a result of the differences in testing methodologies, RootMetrics said that comparisons between 5G results in this report cannot be made.
To provide a look at the different operator’s top 5G performance metrics, RootMetrics examined each network’s highest 5G availability, fastest 5G median download speed, and fastest 5G maximum download speed across the 16 cities tested.
RootMetrics said that, fundamentally, all four operators registered “outstanding” reliability. During web and app testing, it considered success rates of 97% or better for getting connected to the network and/or staying connected to the network as “excellent” reliability, and all four operators met that mark in nearly every city tested on both 5G and non-5G.
EE was found to offer the best combination of fast 5G speeds and broad 5G availability. It was the only operator with 5G in all 16 cities tested. EE’s 5G median download speeds were consistently fast, and much faster than those recorded on 4G LTE.
EE’s 5G availability was broad relative to other operators, having the highest 5G availability in each of the 16 markets tested. Its 5G latency was also generally low across the board, though RootMetrics said that it was worth noting that EE’s latency on 5G was relatively similar to its latency on 4G LTE.
O2 provided strong 5G maximum download speeds but low 5G availability. Its 5G availability was the lowest among all networks, and RootMetrics said that it was only able to collect enough test samples to accurately characterise O2’s 5G median download speed in one city. Belfast, at 121.3 Mbps. Yet O2 registered strong maximum download speeds on 5G in two cities, Belfast and Edinburgh, suggesting that O2’s 5G has good potential. O2 also recorded generally low latency on 4G LTE.
In the RootMetrics survey, Three was found to show “impressive” 5G speeds but limited availability, earning distinction for clocking the single fastest 5G median and maximum download speeds among all operators during testing. However, RootMetrics cautioned that Three’s 5G availability was generally low in most of the operator’s 11 cities with 5G, so there is room for improvement. Three’s latency on both 5G and 4G LTE was relatively low.
Vodafone’s 5G was found to be consistently fast, but availability has opportunity to grow. Vodafone’s 5G speeds were regarded as excellent – and consistent – in most markets, but RootMetrics added that the operator’s 5G availability has space to improve across the 10 cities in which it offered 5G. Vodafone’s latency on both 5G and 4G LTE was low in most markets, though similar to what RootMetrics observed with EE, Vodafone’s latency was relatively consistent with that on 4G LTE.