Which is the fastest mobile network?

Last updated: 12 March 2022   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Mobile networks compete to be the fastest in the UK and various companies are on hand to provide speed test evidence.

EE is the fastest mobile provider according to reports from five different companies using different ways of measuring mobile speed.

EE also has leading upload speeds while they share the crown with O2 when it comes to the latency of their network.

Yet O2 is frequently the slowest of the four UK mobile networks, offering speeds less than half of EE's in some cases.

fastest mobile network

At a glance

Average download speed Average upload speed Average latency
EE 52.64Mbps 11.19Mbps 37ms
Vodafone 32.67Mbps 10.64Mbps 42ms
Three 31.69Mbps 9.90Mbps 55ms
O2 18.13Mbps 7.3Mbps 40ms

Note: Averages taken from multiple reports so should only be used as a guide.

Fastest mobile network

Several companies produce reports on how fast mobile networks in the UK are.

Results can vary and the methodologies used by different companies vary too. We'll look at five of the latest reports from the following in more detail in this guide:

  • nPerf
  • Ookla
  • Opensignal
  • RootMetrics
  • Tutela

In total, these companies take millions of measurements every year to see how fast mobile services are in the UK and to help customers decide which mobile provider is the best option.

So, what are their conclusions?


EE were the fastest mobile network in 2020 according to the annual awards from nPerf.

So far, we don't have more recent data from nPerf, so it's worth remembering this information is a little out of date. However, this is how the mobile operators performed in their report published in February 2021:

Mobile network Average download speed (in Mbps)
1 EE 59.80
2 Vodafone 49.45
3 Three 42.89
4 O2 18.02

EE was the fastest network according to these results with a 10Mbps lead over second placed Vodafone. There was more than a 40Mbps gap between EE and O2 in these figures.

nPerf use data from 4G and 5G speed tests to compile their results with tests undertaken on hundreds of devices by ordinary users who have the nPerf app installed.

The 2020 report used over 96,000 speed tests performed by 11,350 users to come to its conclusions.

However, it's worth noting the number of tests varied depending on the mobile network:

Mobile network Percentage of tests
EE 31.08%
O2 13.06%
Three 31.79%
Vodafone 24.07%

A greater number of tests for EE and Three could theoretically produce a more accurate average as nPerf has more data to work with.

Yet since the data is sourced via customers choosing to undertake a speed test, the results are not completely unbiased. There's more on that later in this guide.

EE beat their rivals in the following nPerf categories:

  • nPerf score
  • Download speed
  • Upload speed
  • Latency
  • Browsing test
  • Streaming test
  • 4G connection rate

The only category where they didn't come top was the success ratio category which looks at the number of tests performed and how many of them were successful. Vodafone had a slightly higher success score.


Data compiled by Ookla who operate the Speedtest.net app shows EE was the fastest mobile network in Q4 2020.

Ookla hasn't provided industry-wide figures for the 4G and 5G combined networks since 2020, although we do have 5G for 2021 (more on this below).

In their 2020 data, the gap between EE and their closest rival is slightly smaller than in the figures above and their overall speed was lower:

Mobile network Average download speed (in Mbps)
1 EE 46.36
2 Three 37.08
3 Vodafone 34.83
4 O2 22.22

While EE are the fastest operator, Three have leapfrogged Vodafone into second place in this data compared to the previous quarter. O2 again are the slowest provider.

Overall, EE topped the list in the following categories:

  • Fastest provider
  • Latency
  • Consistency
  • 4G availability

As we mentioned, Ookla examined UK 5G mobile networks more recently.

The winner for Q3-Q4 2021 was Three:

Mobile network 5G Speed Score (in Mbps)
1 Three 246.65
2 Vodafone 159.40
3 EE 158.30
4 O2 127.97

This demonstrates how the speeds on 5G can change the leadership tables and it's something to watch out for as 5G coverage expands across the UK.

Ookla results are also based on self-selecting speed tests from mobile customers. The major difference is that Ookla don't provide specific information about how many speed tests have been undertaken in each quarter.

However, in a blog post published in October 2020 the leader of the Data Science team at Ookla stated the company collects over 15,000 tests in the UK each day. Over the course of a quarter, that would add up to around 1.3 million tests.

Ookla argue this means their data is more reliable than other crowdsourced platforms, something we examine in more detail in the methodology section below.


Opensignal published bi-annual reports on mobile speeds, with EE taking the crown in the figures for the first half of 2021.

Here's a network comparison:

Mobile network Average download speed (in Mbps)
1 EE 44.0
2 Three 25.2
3 Vodafone 21.6
4 O2 17.1

Three come in second again in this research, yet the gap between EE and their closest rival is over 18Mbps and puts them well in the lead. Once more, O2 are at the bottom of the table.

Opensignal research put EE as sole winner in five out of seven award categories:

  • Download Speed Experience
  • Upload Speed Experience
  • Video Experience
  • 4G Availability
  • 4G Coverage Experience

They were also tied with Vodafone in two further categories:

  • Games Experience
  • Voice App Experience

Overall, then, EE were the one to beat overall in Opensignal's results, with their 5G-specific speed data offering positive results too:

Mobile network Download Speed Experience for 5G (in Mbps)
1 EE 109.5
2 O2 91.2
3 Three 80.2
4 Vodafone 59.1

It's interesting here that O2's 5G performance is much better than their combined performance and this is again something to keep an eye on in the future.

The data used by Opensignal in their reports uses information from their own apps and partner apps that cover a wide range of users, demographics and devices. They say they take billions of measurements from over 100 million devices across the world every day.

Something interesting about Opensignal's methodology is that they collect data from both user-generated tests and automated tests, with more measurements gathered automation at random intervals. This is likely to give a more realistic snapshot of how a network is performing.


EE were the fastest UK mobile network in the 2021 data for July to December published by RootMetrics.

Their data uses both 4G and 5G networks in their figures:

Mobile network Average download speed (in Mbps)
1 EE 60.4
2 Vodafone 24.8
3 Three 21.6
4 O2 15.2

EE was again significantly faster than their closest rival Vodafone with more than 35Mbps separating them. The difference between EE and bottom placed O2 is more than 45Mbps.

The way RootMetrics obtain their results is different to the other names in this list. They look exclusively at 16 cities across the UK and undertake speed tests themselves by walking and driving around the locations.

They conducted over 650,000 speed tests in the second half of 2021 with EE taking 26 of the 38 awards on offer across the four nations of the UK. Significantly, EE took all the awards in the speed and data categories.

RootMetrics' research is based on speeds in urban areas which are generally better covered by mobile operators. This is particularly the case when we look at 5G coverage as rollouts have tended to focus on the more commercially viable urban centres so far.

What this means is that data from RootMetrics cannot be extrapolated to cover the UK as a whole, although it's a useful benchmark for customers in busy urban locations where mobile networks have invested plenty of money.


EE were the fastest mobile network in the State of Mobile Experience report published by Tutela in October 2021. This research covered March to August 2021 and looked at areas where all mobile networks have coverage.

Here are their results for each operator:

Mobile network Average download speed (in Mbps)
1 EE 31.1
2 Three 15.6
3 O2 13.4
4 Vodafone 11.5

Again, we see EE with double the speeds of their nearest rival and almost three times the speed of Vodafone in last place.

For 5G, the top three were much more closely matched:

Mobile network Download Speed Experience for 5G (in Mbps)
1 O2 53.1
2 Three 49.1
3 EE 48.6
4 Vodafone 21.6

EE drop to third in these test results, although it's noticeable the 5G metrics recorded by Tutela are much lower than the 5G speeds detailed in other research above.

Tutela awarded five of their six awards to EE:

  • Excellent Consistent Quality
  • Core Consistent Quality
  • Video experience
  • Coverage score
  • 5G coverage

The only award EE didn't win was the 5G Consistent Quality award - that went to Three.

Overall Tutela gave EE the Best Mobile Experience 2021 award while the Best 5G Experience 2021 award went to Three.

Tutela's methodology mirrors Opensignal's by using speed tests from millions of users across the world with over 200 billion measurements added to their database each day. Like Opensignal, they have partnerships with companies across the world which say they amounts to connections with over 3,000 iOs and Android apps.

Other mobile speed considerations

It's clear EE offers the fastest UK mobile network overall, yet download speed is only one element of a customer's mobile experience.

We've already touched on upload speeds and latency above but it's worth taking a closer look at which mobile providers are standing out.

Upload speeds

Just as they triumph in average download speeds, EE are the winner when it comes to upload speeds too.

Here are the details from the nPerf, Opensignal and Tutela reports detailed above:

Report Winner Runner up
nPerf EE (12.38Mbps) Vodafone (12.17Mbps)
Opensignal EE (9.7Mbps) Vodafone (7.4Mbps)
Tutela EE (10.0Mbps) Three (9.6Mbps)

What's interesting here is that other networks are much closer to EE on upload speeds, with Vodafone and Three almost matching them in the nPerf and Tutela reports respectively.

It suggests that EE is focused on providing fast download speeds but that hasn't necessarily translated to higher upload speeds so far.

Customers who plan to upload lots of files or take video calls on their phones using their mobile data shouldn't see too much difference between networks, although EE do edge out their rivals.


Latency refers to the amount of time it takes for a network to complete a task. It's measured in milliseconds (ms) and numbers should be as low as possible.

Three of the reports mentioned above cover latency:

Report Winner Runner up Third Fourth
nPerf EE O2 Vodafone Three
Ookla EE O2 Vodafone Three
Tutela O2 EE Vodafone Three

As we can see, EE and O2 are the ones to beat on this metric, although O2 outperform EE slightly in Tutela's report.

Find out more about who wins when we put EE and O2 head to head.

The differences between the top network and bottom network for latency can be significant.

For example, nPerf puts EE as 18ms faster than Three while the latency figure on the Ookla research is 15ms.

Meanwhile, Tutela uses a different metric which looks at how often latency is less than 50ms. All four providers are above 99% with Three's 99.4% the lowest of the four.

Low latency is a crucial part of mobile customer experience. While O2's download speeds in these reports are low, their network doesn't delay customers when moving data around the network.


The reports we've discussed above use different methods to measure the speeds offered by mobile networks:

  • nPerf and Ookla use crowdsourced data from mobile customers choosing to test their mobile connection
  • Opensignal and Tutela have partnerships with apps that test how fast a customer's mobile connection is at random intervals
  • RootMetrics (now owned by Ookla) travel around cities to mimic the real-world experience of mobile customers

This is useful from our perspective because it shows how providers perform under different testing constraints - and the undisputed conclusion is that EE is the fastest mobile network in the UK.

However, as we mentioned earlier, there are differences in how much data a report includes and where that data comes from.

The October 2020 blog post from Ookla's Data Science leader took aim at nPerf's methodology by saying it took their rival a whole year in 2019 to obtain the same amount of data Ookla obtained in three days.

Ookla's point was that lower sample counts produce results with less statistical certainty and it's true that 5.4 million measurements equals a much more impressive dataset than the 96,000 recorded by nPerf over a year.

If we look at their results side by side, we can see nPerf data is higher across three networks but Ookla results put O2 as 4Mbps faster.

nPerf Ookla Difference
EE 59.80 46.36 13.44Mbps faster in nPerf
O2 18.02 22.22 4.20Mbps faster in Ookla
Three 42.89 34.83 8.06Mbps faster in nPerf
Vodafone 49.45 31.58 17.87Mbps faster in nPerf

While data from both companies is based on legitimate speed tests, it's difficult to argue with Ookla's assertion that more testing means greater accuracy.

In this case, that may mean slower speeds for EE, Three and Vodafone customers than seen in the nPerf report but faster speeds for O2.

Yet Ookla and Tutela both use measurements from testing within apps, so how do those results compare?

Opensignal Tutela Difference
EE 44.0 31.1 12.9Mbps faster in Opensignal
O2 17.1 13.4 3.7Mbps faster in Opensignal
Three 25.2 15.6 9.6Mbps faster in Opensignal
Vodafone 21.6 11.5 10.1Mbps faster in Opensignal

Data from Opensignal is consistently faster across all four networks, despite using a similar methodology.

Of course, there are differences in the way each provider collects their data and no company can guarantee their findings are going to translate into good or bad mobile speeds for customers in the real world.

The main issue with mobile speed data is simply that it's only a guideline and customers may find the speeds in their city, town or village either beat the averages we've discussed above or are much slower than they would suggest.

Verdict: EE is the clear winner

EE's mobile network is the fastest in the UK, no matter which dataset we look at.

They frequently win awards for speed and, in some cases, they offer double the speeds of their rivals. If it's a straight choice for speed, customers should look no further than EE.

Yet the fastest provider may not necessarily be the best choice for a mobile customer.

Mobile coverage also plays a big part, with some customers forced to choose one network or another because their coverage is better in the areas where they spend a lot of time.

Equally, EE may offer a speedy network but they are one of the pricier options when customers are looking for the cheapest SIM only or mobile phone deals.

As we've seen throughout this guide, 5G has the potential to shake things up and it will be interesting to see if other networks can seriously challenge EE in the years ahead.

More research that groups 4G and 5G speed tests together in the same way that RootMetrics' data does will also help customers to better understand how speeds will perform in the real world.

As 5G expands, the reality for most customers is that they will be switching seamlessly between 4G and 5G networks, so an approach that looks at average speeds for all users is welcome.

Read more about 5G mobile broadband and find out which network is best for 5G.

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