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UK 5G availability and speeds progressing at steady clip

Analyst’s latest monthly snapshot of next-generation mobile network development shows steady progress of 5G in Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle

5G in the UK is already fast, and its availability is becoming more and more widespread, says the latest RootMetrics Everyday 5G scorecard, which measures availability and download speeds for the country’s growing number of next-generation mobile networks.

To track the progress of 5G as it expands across the UK, RootMetrics tests network performance in 16 of the country’s most populous cities every six months, four each month.

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

Combining these two 5G possibilities, RootMetrics said it could reflect the most typical user experience when connected to 5G for any amount of time, offering a high-level snapshot of what the analyst recorded for each operator across four recently tested cities in the first half of 2021.

The July 5G Scorecard looked at everyday 5G availability and speed results in the cities of Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

BT-owned EE posted the highest everyday 5G availability in all four cities, as it did in the previous reports for May and June 2021, including a tie with Vodafone in Liverpool, along with what were regarded as consistently fast everyday 5G median download speeds. EE also registered improved everyday 5G availability in all four cities since the second half of 2020, with faster everyday 5G speeds in three of those cities.

Looking at notable characteristics in certain cities, the study found that EE’s everyday 5G availability in Manchester had expanded from 44.7% to 59.4% since H2 2020, while its everyday 5G median download speed in the city increased from 110.7Mbps in H2 2020 to 126.0Mbps in H1 2021.

Just weeks after it concluded a successful merger with Virgin Media, O2 clocked the fastest everyday 5G median download speed in all four cities, including 153.4Mbps in Leicester. Even though its everyday 5G availability was not as widespread as that of most operators, O2 was found to have shown “nice” improvement in each city over the last six months or so.

In keeping with its stated ambition to grow its next-generation network presence significantly in 2021, Three was shown by the study to have made good progress in the first half of 2021, increasing its everyday 5G availability in all four cities and delivering faster speeds in three of them. While Three had the slowest everyday 5G median download speed in each city, its speeds were still above 100Mbps in three cities, and very close to this benchmark in the fourth.

Vodafone registered fast everyday 5G median download speeds in the three cities where it has 5G, excluding Leicester, but it was especially impressive in Liverpool, tying with EE for offering the highest everyday 5G availability at 51.5%, while clocking a strong everyday 5G median download speed of 125.4Mbps.

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