5G report shows EE in lead for speed and availability

8 September 2020   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Latest 5G report from RootMetrics shows EE delivering fast 5G speeds and broadband availability compared to other networks.

Birmingham is the city with the most 5G availability of any location at 40.2% (EE), while the fastest test speed of 478.1Mb was found in Liverpool (Three).

The availability of 5G from O2, Vodafone and Three was limited in the test cities, although all three provided strong maximum download speeds.

5G testing with four networks took place in 16 cities, representing a leap on the three locations and two networks covered at the time of their February 2020 snapshot.

5g hand over city

EE leading on 5G

RootMetrics found EE offered the best combination of fast 5G speeds and availability - they were the only operator active in all 16 cities tested.

They provided more 5G availability in Birmingham than anywhere else with 40.2% of the city covered. This was followed by 37.4% availability in Belfast and 33% in Cardiff.

EE's median 5G download speeds ranged from 103.9Mb in Nottingham and 145.9Mb in Newcastle, although their maximum download registered in London at 333.4Mb.

EE were the first network to switch on their 5G mobile services in May 2019, with Birmingham, Belfast and Cardiff among the first cities to receive 5G services, explaining the advanced coverage in those areas.

Read our EE mobile network review.

What about other networks?

All mobile providers were praised by RootMetrics for different elements of their 5G mobile services, although tests were less comprehensive as they were available in fewer cities than EE's 5G.

Three were present in 11 cities, also registering their best availability figure in Birmingham, although theirs was only 15.4%.

Their median download speeds were above 100Mb in eight cities, with their fastest showing of 193.7Mb in Leicester, while their fastest maximum speed was found in Liverpool with 478.1Mb - the fastest single test across all providers.

Three have accelerated their 5G rollout this year, beginning with 65 cities and towns in February.

Vodafone 5G services were available in 10 of the test cities, and 16.8% availability in Bristol registered as their highest coverage location.

RootMetrics praised their consistently fast speeds, but noted their availability needs improvement if they're going to compete.

As for O2, their 5G services were found in four test cities but enough test samples could only be gathered in one - Belfast - and their availability there was only 0.6%.

Yet RootMetrics were impressed by O2's median 5G speeds compared to the 4G ones they offered in the same locations, and they were highlighted as a network to watch as their 5G services expand.

O2 and Vodafone have joined forces on 5G infrastructure to improve the speed and environmental footprint of their respective rollouts.

However, with the announcement that Huawei equipment is to be stripped out from 5G networks by 2027 and no fresh equipment can be purchased from them after December 2020, the three operators using their components may struggle to extend their 5G capabilities.

Only O2 don't currently use Huawei equipment in their 5G network, although their shared sites with Vodafone will be impacted by the ban.

Other considerations

RootMetrics noted all networks offered outstanding reliability in the cities tested, with all operators in nearly every city meeting the 97% benchmark for getting connected and staying connected.

They also published a more in-depth look at London as the UK's biggest city, finding only EE had significant availability in the capital with 28.8%.

Vodafone and Three offered 5.2% availability while O2 languished in last place with only 0.3%.

The fastest median download speeds in London were offered by Vodafone (181.8Mb) while Three demonstrated their speeds with the fastest maximum download speeds (463Mb).

It's worth noting the RootMetrics report only considered 16 5G cities, and there may be other smaller locations with high availability and speeds.

The test cities were Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Newcastle, Leeds and Bradford, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry, Cardiff, Bristol and London.

What is 5G mobile broadband and what are the fastest theoretical speeds? Find out more in this guide on the fifth generation of mobile technology.

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