EE reigns in UK LTE practical usage tests


OpenSignal’s latest Mobile Network Update puts EE at the top for 4G

Following on from its previous Mobile Networks Update six months ago, OpenSignal has confirmed that the UK mobile industry is continuing to make big strides in LTE reach. In its Mobile Network Update: UK, OpenSignal tracked the changes it has seen over the last six months in its 3G and 4G tests results for the four nationwide operators in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In OpenSignal’s last report, only one mobile operator, EE, had crossed the 70% availability threshold for LTE. Now three of the big four UK operators were able to deliver an LTE connection to consumers in more than seven out of every 10 tests. EE is still the leader in the 4G availability category, but O2 and Vodafone are really closing the gap.

In a larger context however, the UK still doesn’t have the 4G ubiquity of a South Korea or a Netherlands, but it is certainly far easier to find an LTE signal in the UK today than it was a year ago, when users had access to an EE LTE connection 64% of the time, OpenSignal concluded.

In its UK report, OpenSignal said EE had the fastest average LTE speeds, and it turns out it has the highest peak speeds of 136.1Mbps in the tests. What this means, said OpenSignal, is EE has a very powerful, high capacity LTE network, and that power is reflected in the typical 4G connection it supplies to its customers on an everyday basis. The surprise, though, is the operator that had the second highest peak speed in the analysis.

OpenSignal measured average peak speed on Vodafone at 113.3Mbps, which is significantly higher than Three’s peak score of 94.1Mbps. Yet, in the UK report, Three had the faster 4G speed average: 22.3Mbps, compared to Vodafone’s 18.9Mbps. What OpenSignal explained we are seeing is almost certainly the effects of congestion on Vodafone’s network. If we compare peak speeds against average LTE speeds, OpenSignal said it finds that Three’s peaks are about four times faster than its average, while Vodafone’s peaks are about six times than its average.

OpenSignal’s testers on Three’s network were able to get much closer to the full potential of Three’s LTE network. Meanwhile, Vodafone had a very powerful network in the peak speed results, but OpenSignal’s users were able to tap into much less of that potential on an everyday basis. Vodafone is a bigger operator than Three in terms of subscribers, and we could be seeing it affect its results, noted OpenSignal. The more customers there are on a network vying for bandwidth, the more average speeds experienced by those customers slow down, the company explained.

Finally, O2 had the lowest peak speed of 69.6Mbps (nearly half that of EE’s) in OpenSignal’s analysis, which is an indication of more limited LTE resources. The good news is that O2 seems to be managing those resources well. Its peak speeds were about 4.5 times faster than its average tested 4G speed of 15.1Mbps. O2 may not have a lot of capacity compared to its competitors, but it’s able to consistently deliver that capacity to its customers, according to OpenSignal’s data, the company concluded.

OpenSignal’s results show EE still reigns supreme in LTE speed. It measured average 4G download speed on EE at 29Mbps, more than 6Mbps faster than its nearest rival Three. But EE’s test speeds have slowed slightly since the last report, falling from 31.8 Mbps.

Three has long lived up to its name, providing the fastest 3G download speeds in OpenSignal’s tests, but in the summer test period, it lost sole claim to that title. EE and 3 were statistically tied in 3G speed, each averaging downloads just over 6Mbps. EE is becoming less reliant on 3G as its 4G availability continues to grow, but, as OpenSignal’s found only 57% of Three’s mobile data connections were on an LTE network, 3G remains a significant part of Three’s service.



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