EE remains the mobile network to beat, excelling in both speed and reliability in the second half of 2021, according to independent testing firm RootMetrics.
RootMetrics used Samsung 5G-enabled smartphones purchased off the shelf from mobile operators to conduct more than 650,000 tests of the 4G and 5G networks from EE, Virgin Media O2, Three, and Vodafone. These tests were conducted in the UK’s four nations, its largest metros, and a total of 750 separate locations, both indoor and outdoor and along motorways. When testing networks, analysts focused on places and times consumers often use their smartphones and common activities including calling, texting, and data use.
RootMetrics then scored the networks on their speed, reliability, accessibility (how quickly you can access the network) and their performance for data, texting, and calling.
While in the first half of 2021 EE shared some of the laurels with competitor Vodafone and was pipped by O2 for accessibility, it pulled ahead in the latter half of the year, with an improved overall score of 95.3 (up from 95.2)
RootMetrics notes that the second half of 2021 was the ninth consecutive test period in which EE ranked first overall and for reliability, speed, data, calling, and texting.
The research found that EE delivered the strongest median data speeds on its combined 4G and 5G networks in all four nations. EE's UK-wide average speed was 60.4Mbps. Competitors lagged in comparison, likely due to the smaller reach of their 5G networks currently. Vodafone boasted an average download speed across its 4G and 5G networks of 24.8Mbps, while Three clocked in at 21.6Mbps, and VMO2 was on 15.2Mbps.
EE also improved its accessibility, the one metric where it wasn’t leading the field at the start of 2021. By the end of the year, its users were connecting to its network faster than customers with rivals.
RootMetrics also said EE was the best mobile network in metro areas, based on testing in the UK’s 16 largest cities, including in their centres, business districts, tourist areas, suburbs, and roadways.
Vodafone equalled EE’s calling performance and then ranked second in every other category. RootMetrics noted that Vodafone's median download speeds of 24.8Mbps, while half of the speed posted by EE, would still enable users to download a 600MB video from Netflix in about three minutes. Vodafone’s texting performance and reliability fell from their first-place ties with EE in the first half of 2021 but its scores in those categories remain “excellent,” RootMetrics said.
O2 ranked third, with an improved overall score of 88.6 (up from 87.6), and Three followed, on 87.6. RootMetrics said that Three improved its performance for texting in the second half of the year, while VMO2’s performance was consistent with the first half of the year.
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