Independent study reveals EE is the best mobile provider

22 February 2018   By Angela Moran

A new study from RootMetrics has examined UK mobile performance in the second half of 2017 and found that EE is by far the best overall provider countrywide.

ee store sign with reflection
Credit: William Barton/

RootMetrics tested mobile network performance across the entire UK, concentrating on each of the four UK nations and the 16 most populated metropolitan areas, and gave awards to the best providers across different categories.

To gain a UK RootScore Award, RootMetrics says mobile providers have to "offer outstanding performance regardless of location, from cities and villages of all sizes, to roadways, rural areas, and all the places in between."

To accurately test providers, RootMetrics did real-world testing using Samsung Galaxy 8 phones, used at all times of day, across all locations and using all functions. To achieve complete results, the RootMetrics team performed over 700,000 tests, drove just over 22,000 miles across the UK and covered 100% of the population.

EE comes out on top

The RootScore Award rankings are based on the following performance categories: reliability, speed, data, calls, texts and overall score.

EE came out on top for every category, winning the UK Overall RootScore Award with a total of 93.7 out of 100.

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Since the testing was last performed in the first half of 2017, EE gained first place in two additional categories, improving its performance over the course of the year. Not only this, but EE has won the UK Overall RootScore Award nine consecutive times, since the second half of 2013.

Based on overall score, EE was followed by Three, Vodafone and O2, respectively.

Although Three came second overall with a score of 92 out of 100, it did tie in first place with EE for its call results, and came second in every individual category except for speed, where it fell into third place behind Vodafone.

Having won first place in two categories in the first half of 2017, Vodafone's performance declined in this testing period. It's overall score stood at 90.1 out of 100 and it didn't come first in any category. It came second in the speed and text categories, but placed third for reliability, data and calls.

O2's results were consistent with its results for the first half of 2017, but this means that it came in fourth place in every category except texts, where it tied in second place with Three and Vodafone. Its overall score was 87.1 out of 100.

Variations across cities

To give a good picture of mobile performance across metropolitan areas of the UK, RootMetrics took 16 of the UK's most populated areas and ranked them according to which offered the best mobile performance, taking into consideration all four mobile providers.

The top three metropolitan areas for network performance were Leicester, Nottingham, and Leeds and Bradford, with scores of 97.3, 97.2 and 97.1, respectively. The bottom three cities were London with a score of 94.3, Bristol with 93.5 and Cardiff with 93.

Despite it being the UK capital and the most highly populated city tested, London ranked relatively poorly, which, as RootMetrics points out, means that "bigger isn't necessarily better" when it comes to mobile phone performance.

However, they do also make clear that just because a given area has a poor overall score this doesn't mean that every carrier performed poorly during testing, just that some carriers dragged down the score of stronger ones.

For example, although Cardiff came last overall, the RootMetrics data shows that reliability rates were actually excellent for customers of EE and Three in Cardiff during testing, but that the other providers' poor reliability reduced the overall score.

Regional awards

As well as its UK-wide awards, RootMetrics also gives out Nation RootScore Awards to operators for their performance across the four UK nations using the same six performance categories.

In this testing period EE was awarded 22 national awards, followed by Three with eight, O2 with four and Vodafone with three. Since the first half of 2017 EE gained nine awards, O2 gained three and Three remained static, meaning Vodafone was the only provider to lose awards, having achieved eight in the first half of the year.

Additionally, EE came first in all six categories for England, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and was close to doing this for Wales as well, winning four awards and coming second in the remaining two. Three came a close second, with consistent performance across all four nations and winning the Call RootScore Award for Wales outright.

Interestingly, despite its poor overall performance O2 was very strong in Northern Ireland, sharing four awards with EE for this region. Vodafone also performed well in Northern Ireland, sharing three awards for reliability, calls and overall performance.

However, when it comes to regional performance RootMetrics praises EE's performance as "nothing short of brilliant," meaning that whether someone lives in the Scottish Highlands or metropolitan Manchester, EE really is the most consistently reliable mobile phone provider.

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