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Birmingham and Liverpool take top spots in metro UK mobile speed tests

Midlands and Merseyside metro areas come top for best places in the UK that power daily connected experiences

While speed is not everything when it comes to communications systems, it is a vital component, and the place to be in the UK for fast mobile is the city of Birmingham, according to a study from RootMetrics.

The report noted that with 5G service in the UK still expanding, most mobile users continue to rely on 4G LTE networks to provide the fast speeds that power their daily connected experience.

Indicating the importance of high speed mobile connectivity to business, recent RootMetrics research found that 71% of people believe slow data performance significantly reduces productivity; 40% said slow data performance leads to a loss of customers; 28% think slow data performance leads to a loss of revenue; and a further 11% said slow data performance leads to customer dissatisfaction.

To determine which of the 16 metropolitan areas across the UK was home to the fastest and slowest speeds, the analyst aggregated the median download speeds recorded on the networks of EE, O2, Three and Vodafone in area.

The tests were based on Samsung Galaxy S9 4G LTE smartphones purchased off the shelf from operator stores, and tests were conducted during the day and night while walking and driving.

During 5G first-look testing in the summer and autumn of 2019, it used a OnePlus 7 Pro 5G to test EE’s 5G network and a Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G to test Vodafone’s 5G. Results from 5G first-look testing were not factored into any aggregate median download speed results for the second half of 2019.

RootMetrics said that the good news was that results from its testing in the second half of 2019 showed that the UK operators were providing generally fast speeds in most metros across the UK, and speeds should get even faster as 5G takes hold in more cities.

With an aggregate median download speed of 28.9 Mbps, Birmingham topped the charts by a fraction from Liverpool.

Birmingham’s rankings were largely due to EE’s median download speed of 51.6 Mbps, which registered as a statistical tie for the fastest median download speed in any UK metro in 2H 2019. Vodafone clocked a strong speed of 38.4 Mbps, but O2 and Three didn’t fare as well, registering median download speeds of 10.4 Mbps and 15.1 Mbps, respectively.

Putting this into context regarding real-world usage, RootMetrics noted that while all the speeds of all operators in Birmingham were fast enough for most user data activities, consumers would notice a difference between the speeds of EE and Vodafone and those of O2 and Three.

At EE’s median download speed of 51.6 Mbps, for example, downloading a 600 MB data file would take less than two minutes; on the networks of O2 or Three, downloading the same data packet would take between five and eight minutes.

Liverpool was just 0.1 Mbps “slower” than that of Birmingham with a media average of 28.8 Mbps. RootMetrics said that while each city’s speed was basically identical, the important thing was that both metros had fast speeds with the same operators leading the pack. EE and Vodafone each racked up strong median download speeds of roughly 40 Mbps, while O2 and Three had speeds of 11.3 Mbps and 17.7 Mbps, respectively.

Manchester produced an aggregate median download speed of 26.7 Mbps, boosted by the EE and Vodafone networks which delivered median download speeds of about 43 Mbps. O2’s median download speed of 8.1 Mbps was the second-slowest median download speed recorded in the test, while Three delivered 12.4 Mbps.

London came ninth place for fast mobile speeds, with a download speed of 24.1Mbps. RootMetrics said that London’s ranking was mainly supported by EE’s 45.6 Mbps, while O2 and Vodafone each delivered median downloads speeds of 17.6 and 21.3 Mbps, respectively. Three weighed in with 11.7 Mbps.

RootMetrics observed that 5G could ultimately change the game for users looking for fast data connectivity, and that it had already begun its first-half 2020 testing in UK metros, and those results will include 5G where available. It expects to see faster aggregate median download speeds and stronger performance in general as 5G continues to expand across the UK.

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