Data highlights variations in 4G mobile performance between operators
UK regulator, Ofcom, has today published research into 4G and 3G mobile broadband performance that shows 4G is outperforming 3G networks.
Overall, 4G networks performed much better than 3G networks in five sample towns and cities tested – Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Poole/Bournemouth – where both 4G and 3G networks have been rolled out. In these areas, 4G networks delivered an average download speed of 14.7Mbps compared with 5.9Mbps on 3G, and took 0.72 seconds to load a web page compared with 1.04 seconds on 3G.
The research, which collected 120,000 test samples on smartphones, also highlighted variations in performance between the UK’s network operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – across four key measures: download speed; web browsing speed; upload speed; and latency.
EE delivered the fastest average 4G download speed (18.6Mbps). Overall, 97% of test samples across EE, O2, Three and Vodafone provided 4G download speeds above 2 Mbps, typically sufficient to support high capacity video services.
Three was the quickest on average for web browsing over 4G (an average of 0.63 seconds to load a web page). EE delivered the fastest average upload speed of 17.6Mbps.
Latency was more consistent than the other measures across the 4G networks tested (an average of 53.1 milliseconds).
The average download speed for 4G services was 14.7Mbps, more than twice as fast as the average 3G speed (5.9Mbps) across the five towns and cities tested. Web browsing was faster on 4G than 3G, taking an average of 0.72 seconds to load a standard web page on 4G, compared with 1.04 seconds on 3G.
The average download speed for 4G services was 14.7Mbps. EE delivered the fastest average 4G speed in the towns and cities tested, at 18.6Mbps. For Vodafone, average download was 16.4Mbps, O2 was 13.9Mbps and Three was 8.5Mbps.
Overall, 97% of test samples across EE, O2, Three and Vodafone provided 4G download speeds above 2Mbps, typically sufficient to support high capacity video services. EE delivered 4G download speeds faster than 2Mbps in 99.8% of test samples. This compared with 98.7% for Vodafone, 98.1% for O2 and 89.9% of test samples for Three.
Upload speeds for 4G services (13.6Mbps on average) were more than eight times faster than 3G (1.6Mbps on average). 4G networks had lower latency than 3G networks. Across Ofcom’s test sites, average latency was 53.1 milliseconds (ms) on 4G while on 3G it was 63.5ms.
The average 4G upload speed was 13.6Mbps, eight times faster than 3G at 1.6Mbps. EE had the fastest average 4G upload speed in the towns and cities tested, at 17.6Mbps, followed by O2 (13.2Mbps) and Vodafone (13.1Mbps). Three’s average 4G upload speed was 9.4Mbps.
EE, Vodafone and O2 delivered upload speeds faster than 10Mbps in over two thirds of test samples (69.7% for EE, 68.7% for Vodafone and 68.5% for O2). Less than half of Three’s upload speed test samples were faster than 10Mbps (47.4%).
For web browsing speed, the research measured the time it took to load a standard web page. Web browsing is one of the most popular activities on 4G. Across all 4G networks tested, average web browsing speed was 0.72 seconds. Three had the fastest average 4G web browsing speed, taking an average of 0.63 seconds to load a web page. The average time on O2’s network was 0.71 seconds, while there was no significant difference between the 0.76 and 0.77 seconds recorded by Vodafone and EE respectively.
Ofcom tested in two cities in both phases of research (Edinburgh and London), so a comparison between data collected in March – June 2014 (Q2 2014) and October – December 2014 (Q4 2014) is only possible for these two cities.
In London, there were no statistically significant differences between Q2 2014 and Q4 2014 in overall average 4G download speed (13.1Mbps, Q2 2014, and 13.2Mbps, Q4 2014) or average web browsing speed (unchanged between Q2 and Q4 2014 at 0.72 seconds).
Interestingly however, in Edinburgh, there was a 12.5% decrease in average 4G download speed, from 16.8Mbps in Q2 2014 to 14.7Mbps in Q4 2014. As more people are taking 4G services from the mobile operators, Ofcom said this is likely to affect the average speeds being received. Average web browsing speed improved in Edinburgh by 10.3% (0.80 seconds in Q2 2014, down to 0.72 seconds in Q4 2014).
EE’s 4G network now covers 81% of UK homes and businesses, up from 68% in June 2014. O2 and Vodafone have increased their 4G coverage to 66% and 65% respectively, up from 43% and 37% in June 2014. Three’s 4G coverage is reported here for the first time, reaching 53% of premises in March 2015.