Vodafone and O2 demonstrating fast 5G speeds

20 January 2021   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Latest research across 16 cities by RootMetrics demonstrates high download speeds from Vodafone and O2.

Vodafone's fastest median download speeds of 216.6 Mbps were found in London, while O2's 178.9 Mbps were found in Belfast.

EE had the most coverage of a single operator in any location tested, with their 57% coverage in Nottingham.

They also remain in the lead for 5G in London, registering coverage of 39.9% compared with levels below 17% for all other operators.

5g mobile broadband speed

Top 5G speeds

Of all four networks, Vodafone registered the fastest 5G median download speeds in a single city, with tests showing average speeds of 216.6 Mbps in London.

O2's fastest median speeds of 178.9 Mbps were recorded in Belfast, while Three also registered their fastest median speeds of 137.2Mbps in Belfast.

EE's top speeds were found in Hull, where testing showed 5G median download speeds of 143.6 Mbps.

RootMetrics' testing also showed the following:

  • Vodafone's speed range was 81.6 Mbps to 216.6 Mbps
  • O2's speed range was 117.6 Mbps to 178.9 Mbps
  • EE's speed range was 106.5 Mbps to 143.6 Mbps
  • Three's speed range was 79.1 Mbps to 137.2 Mbps

5G can theoretically deliver mobile speeds of 10 Gbps or more, but the reality at the moment is between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps.

5G city coverage

RootMetrics undertake their tests in 16 cities across the UK, giving us a bi-annual snapshot of how networks are performing.

Their results show how much 5G coverage an operator has in an area, with EE's 57% coverage in Nottingham coming out on top this time around.

Other networks were well behind on coverage:

  • Vodafone's 44% coverage in Liverpool was their best, although they only registered more than 20% coverage in one other city (Bristol)
  • Three's best coverage was found in Hull with 29.6%, with low availability in every test city
  • O2 also offered their best coverage in Hull, but their best was only 17.1%

Looking more closely at London, EE are far and away the operator with the highest level of availability across the capital:

  • 39.9% for EE
  • 16.8% for Three
  • 9.7% for Vodafone
  • 6.6% for O2

Just adding 5G services to cities doesn't necessarily mean many customers will have access to it, and that's why RootMetrics' coverage testing data is interesting.

EE were vocal about doubling their 5G sites in key existing locations when they announced additional 5G areas in October 2020, and London is undoubtedly a key site for all networks.

Expansion of 5G services

As we've pointed out in our analysis of which network is best for 5G, data from RootMetrics is best used alongside 5G information from other sources due to its narrow focus.

RootMetrics focus on 16 busy cities, many of which were launch locations for EE in 2019.

It means rollouts in other cities and towns aren't covered by the research, and so we can't get a full picture of how the national rollout is looking from this data alone.

However, it does give some interesting insights, especially on the expansion of 5G services within areas.

For example, in the report for the first half of 2020, O2 only registered enough test results in one location (Belfast) to be counted, yet this time around it was 11 cities and their highest availability was in a different location (Hull).

It demonstrates 5G capacity and coverage is evolving all the time, so customers signing up to 5G mobile deals now may quickly benefit from faster speeds and wider coverage in the months ahead.

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