EE has the best 4G and 5G mobile networks, outperforming its rivals on speed, network availability and video and game performance, according to an analysis by independent research firm Opensignal.
Opensignal crowdsourced data from hundreds of thousands of devices using the networks between 1 December 2020 and 28 February 2021 and used that information to rank the UK's four mobile operators.
Opensignal found that EE’s 4G network excels on speed, delivering average download speeds of 39Mbps. Even more impressively, those speeds have increased by 4Mbps or 11% from the latest biannual report. Download speeds on the other networks have been largely stagnant, up just 0.2 to 0.6Mbps compared to Opensignal’s study last summer.
EE also led the pack on upload speed, with an average of 9.1Mbps. Vodafone followed on 8.1Mbps, Three on 6.8Mbps and O2 brought up the rear on 6.7Mbps.
EE’s superior speeds helped it to deliver the best video experience for mobile users. Along with Vodafone, it also provides the best gaming experience, while Vodafone was best for voice apps.
EE also provides the best 4G availability, with devices connecting to the network 95.3% of the time. The other networks performed significantly worse. Vodafone’s 4G is available 89.6% of the time and O2’s 89.3%. Three’s 4G is available to its users the least, just 83.9% of the time. That means that 16.1% of the time, Three users are being reverted to 3G or not picking up any mobile signal at all.
The results are less clearcut for the operators’ emerging 5G networks. EE comes in top for download and upload speeds, but Three is demonstrating the benefit of its large amount of continuous spectrum in 5G-suitable frequencies. Three’s 5G network ranks first for availability. However, devices are still connecting only 6.5% of the time, suggesting next-generation mobile technology has a long way to go.
Meanwhile, O2 ranked the worst for 5G availability (3.3%), with EE (5.5%) and Vodafone (4.6%) in between.
Three’s dominance of 5G frequencies isn’t translating into higher speeds on the network yet. EE’s 5G network delivered the best download speeds, an average of 140Mbps, followed by O2 (128.9Mbps), then Three (115.9Mbps) and Vodafone (103.1Mbps). Three’s 5G upload speeds also couldn’t keep pace with EE, lagging 12.7Mbps to 16.4Mbps. Vodafone came second on upload speeds, with speeds of 14.7Mbps, while O2 ranked fourth (10Mbps).
The auction held by Ofcom for additional radio spectrum in 5G-suitable frequencies last month could shake up results in the future. EE has snapped up 80MHz of spectrum, while Vodafone and O2 also made gains, levelling the playing field with Three.
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