THE STATE OF MOBILE 5G IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
Mobile operators in the United Kingdom firmly embraced 5G in 2019, rolling out deployments in major cities across the nation. This has the potential to revolutionize speeds across the U.K., however, the 5G experience varies by country and operator. We took a close look at Speedtest® data from Q3 2019 to pinpoint where consumers are able to access 5G and which operators are offering the fastest speeds and lowest latency on 5G. In addition, we examined 4G performance, as the majority of mobile users in the U.K. still rely on 4G for mobile access.
England leads the U.K. in 5G deployments
The Ookla 5G MapTM shows 5G deployments in 29 cities in the U.K. as of November 8, 2019. 5G is commercially available in 22 English cities including: London, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Wolverhampton. Three cities in Scotland have 5G access: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley. Belfast is currently the only city in Northern Ireland with 5G, while Wales has three 5G cities: Cardiff, Llandudno and Penarth.
5G results are more than 450% faster
Comparing 5G Speeds to Speeds on all Mobile Technologies in the United Kingdom Speedtest® Results | Q3 20195G Download (Mbps)5G Upload (Mbps)All Mobile Download (Mbps)All Mobile Upload (Mbps)% Change Download% Change UploadUnited Kingdom176.0019.2431.2311.25463.6%71.0%England177.4119.3532.2211.37450.6%70.2%Northern Ireland171.6023.1123.8910.96618.3%110.9%Scotland175.0515.7630.6611.38470.9%38.5%Wales176.6918.2530.6910.50475.7%73.8%
5G is the great leveler for speeds in the U.K., where it’s available. Mean download speeds on 5G were uniformly high across the U.K., showing less than 6 Mbps difference between the fastest country (England) and the slowest (Northern Ireland).
In most countries Speedtest results on 5G show download speeds 450-475% faster than those on all mobile technologies combined. 5G download speed in Northern Ireland represented an even more impressive 618.3% improvement, because the mean mobile download speed on all technologies is so much slower in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the U.K.
EE leads 5G speeds at the country level
5G Speeds by Operator in the United Kingdom Speedtest® Results | Q3 2019Operator5G Download (Mbps)5G Upload (Mbps)5G latency (ms)5G Top 10% Download (Mbps)5G Top 10% Upload (Mbps)EE205.0219.1725359.6634.85O2159.4817.2826261.3227.55Vodafone140.1519.3621230.5732.97
EE showed the fastest mean download speed over 5G in the U.K. during Q3 2019. O2 was second and Vodafone third. We have omitted Three from this analysis as they currently only offer 5G broadband, and this only in certain districts of London. Three’s mobile 5G service is expected to be launched in the coming months. MVNO Virgin Mobile does not currently offer 5G.
The rankings remained the same when we analyzed the top 10% of results to get a better picture of the upper bound of 5G performance. These top 10% figures represent the 90th percentile, where 10% of results are greater than or equal to that speed.
Vodafone offered the lowest 5G latency in the U.K. during Q3 2019, EE was second and O2 third.
5G is rapidly evolving across the U.K. and each operator is taking a different approach. EE plans to launch 5G in seven additional cities in 2019. O2 is adding 5G in 16 cities in 2019, while Three will have 5G in 24 cities by the end of the year. Vodafone will add seven cities to its 5G portfolio in 2019. Virgin Media will also be working with Vodafone to launch 5G, potentially even in advance of fully switching to their network in 2021. 5G will continue to expand in 2020 as Ofcom is scheduled to auction additional spectrum for 5G in both the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands in spring 2020.
5G speeds vary by operator in the U.K.’s capital cities
5G Speeds by Operator in the Capital Cities in the United Kingdom Speedtest® Results | Q3 2019CityOperator5G Download (Mbps)5G Upload (Mbps)5G latency (ms)5G Top 10% Download (Mbps)5G Top 10% Upload (Mbps)BelfastEE193.5524.1550355.7645.58CardiffVodafone181.9617.7420292.4126.60CardiffEE168.4718.2732296.0430.37EdinburghEE168.9711.4742303.5320.25LondonEE207.0619.1022358.1435.25LondonO2127.988.0026189.9813.56LondonVodafone115.9220.2323184.2037.10
Comparing 5G speeds by operator in the U.K.’s capital cities, EE showed the fastest mean download speed on 5G in London in Q3 2019 and Vodafone demonstrated the fastest 5G download speed in Cardiff. We’ve excluded O2 in Belfast and Edinburgh because they did not meet our minimum sample requirements during the period.
EE tops 4G speeds in the U.K.
We supplemented our 5G analysis with a look at 4G as not everyone has access to 5G. This is because it’s deployed on a city-by-city basis and requires 5G-capable phones to use.
4G Speeds by Operator in the United Kingdom Speedtest® Results | Q3 2019Operator4G Download (Mbps)4G Upload (Mbps)4G latency (ms)4G Top 10% Download (Mbps)4G Top 10% Upload (Mbps)EE42.9112.694191.7129.39Virgin Mobile35.6713.124567.4529.73Vodafone33.3212.923875.7625.57Three24.1111.495154.1723.87O222.9510.044449.9719.17
EE had the fastest mean download speed over 4G during Q3 2019. Virgin Mobile was second, Vodafone third, Three fourth and O2 fifth. EE also had the fastest download speed when looking only at the top 10% of results. Vodafone had the lowest latency on 4G.
While we have seen faster 5G elsewhere in the world, the number of U.K. cities with 5G and the rapid expansion of 5G deployments is impressive. We were particularly pleased to see how consistent 5G speeds were across countries, something that’s been a pain point on 4G. We’ll be excited to revisit this analysis as mobile operators continue to expand and improve 5G in the U.K. Take a Speedtest and share your experience with us.