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London 5G operators make mixed start to service lives

London 5G networks are not yet cutting the mustard in terms of consistency and reliability of performance

In what is said to be the first network benchmarking test of 5G networks in London, the operators offering such access are struggling on consistency and reliability of performance, with the much-touted lower-latency value of 5G yet to materialise.

This is the standout of research from infrastructure benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) across mobile networks from EE, O2 and Vodafone.

While GWS’ results reveal signs of promise for the networks despite the technology not yet being standalone 5G, its testing found that there was “understandably” still a lot to do to ensure widespread coverage due to current deployment approaches. These can cause the networks to drop back down to 4G, even in densely packed areas of London, said GWS.

Network speeds detected varied significantly across the capital, and certain locations saw spikes of super-fast connectivity. For example, testing delivered instantaneous peaks of more than 470Mbps for EE around St Paul’s Cathedral, 330Mbps from O2 at Victoria Station and more than 320Mbps from Vodafone in Belgrave Square.

Upload speeds, another key component of the advances attributed to 5G technology, saw maximum task throughputs of more than 60Mbps for Vodafone, and more than 30Mbps for both EE and O2.

In the tests, mobile operators were able to complete 35% of the data tasks at download speeds above 100Mbps, and 46% of the tasks at upload speeds above 20 Mbps. GWS noted that to put these speeds into perspective, the download throughputs were three to four times faster than what found during previous 4G testing in London.

The London test also revealed that average connection times (latencies) experienced were no different to those often experienced on 4G networks (typically anywhere from 35 to 50ms), and far from the 5G goal of sub-10ms latencies.

“In the early stages of 5G deployment in London, the speeds we witnessed indicated signs of good things to come for consumers that have a 5G phone, especially in comparison to what we have observed in previous 4G tests,” said GWS CEO Paul Carter.

“As part of our own additional qualitative research, we discovered that consumers have come to consider the performance of 4G as the new minimum technology standard. Although still in its early stages, 5G technology will likely very quickly follow suit as the new normal in the future, so the potential is exciting.”

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