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RootMetrics benchmark reveals marked improvements in everyday 5G experience

New network performance yardstick from analyst firm highlights ‘everyday’ usage of next-generation networks in pure play and mixed modes, and finds that BT-owned mobile service maintains availability and speed leadership

Aiming to establish and highlight new standards in 5G performance measurements, RootMetrics has revealed its 5G Scorecard, examining how well UK operators deliver everyday usage experiences in terms of availability and speed.

The mobile network performance benchmark firm’s study provided insights into the most typical end-user 5G experience in the UK cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry and London, looking at “everyday” performance using both 5G-only technology and 5G mixed-mode –  in other words, it looked at the common experience of switching between 5G and 4G LTE during the same data service.

Combining these two 5G possibilities, the analysis reflected the most typical user experience when connected to 5G for any amount of time, offering a high-level snapshot of what RootMetrics recorded for each operator across four recently tested cities to date in the first half of 2021. The analyst emphasised that regardless users connected to 5G mixed mode or 5G-only, the key points to understand were the quality of 5G access and the level of 5G performance.

RootMetrics stressed that its results do not intend to specifically reveal which operator was offering the best 5G performance as a whole in any of the four cities included in its scorecard, or within any of the 16 cities across the UK as a whole that it tests every six months. Overall, the study identified notable infrastructure improvements over the course of the year for all the 5G operators.

Looking at individual operator performance, RootMetrics said that EE delivered what it regarded as “impressive” results in each of the four cities tested. EE’s Everyday 5G availability was found to be the highest in three of the four cities tested, while its Everyday 5G median download speeds were also the quickest in three cities and tied with O2 in Birmingham.

Compared with testing across the same four cities in the second half of 2020, EE’s Everyday 5G availability had improved in three out of four cities and remained consistently broad in the fourth, Birmingham, at 64.7%.

EE also showed what RootMetrics said was “particularly impressive” improvements in Bristol, where its Everyday 5G availability jumped from 36.1% to 46.2% in the first half of 2021 to date, and its Everyday 5G median download speed had increased by 32.7 Mbps since the second half of last year.

Even though it was generally not as fast as its main competitors, the study showed Three UK recorded strong Everyday 5G median download speeds in each city tested, with its quickest speed of 119.0 Mbps recorded in Coventry, a speed that would allow users there to download a 600MB video from Netflix in just 42 seconds. Three’s best Everyday 5G availability result was 47.4% in Birmingham, which trailed only that of EE in the city (64.7%).

O2’s speeds were strong in general, and O2 clocked the fastest Everyday 5G median download speed in London at 154.9 Mbps. However, the study also revealed that its Everyday 5G availability trailed that of the competition in three out of four cities, with its highest Everyday 5G availability of 28.6% recorded in Bristol.

That said, RootMetrics added that O2’s Everyday 5G availability and median download speeds improved in all four cities since the second half of 2020.

Despite not registering 5G results in Coventry, Vodafone’s Everyday 5G median download speeds in the other three cities were seen as fast, ranging from 121.9 Mbps to 143.8 Mbps. Moreover, Vodafone’s Everyday 5G availability improved by at least 14% in all three cities since 2H 2020, with its improvement in Bristol particularly impressive, rising from 34.3% in the second half of 2020 to 48.5% this time.

Commenting on the results of the 5G scorecard, RootMetrics chief executive officer Kevin Hasley said: “5G in the UK has historically been fast, and the good news is that we’re seeing both faster speeds and more widespread Everyday 5G availability so far in 2021.

“As 5G continues to expand, users are spending more and more time on 5G mixed mode, so we feel it’s important to factor those results into our reporting to capture the most typical 5G experience, especially for early adopters in the UK.”

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