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Mobile network sleuths rank UK carriers in 5G performance study, including new 'Everyday 5G' category

Close to half a billion pounds spent on 5G spectrum worth it for EE?

Months after spending £452m on 5G spectrum, EE has again come out top in the 5G performance leader table, according to the latest report from network sniffers IHS Markit RootMetrics.

During H1 2021, RootMetrics looked at the availability and performance of 5G across all carriers in four English cities: London, Bristol, Coventry and Birmingham.

Although smaller in scope than other studies we've seen (RootMetrics' previous reports looked at speeds across 16 cities in all four home nations), it aims to provide a more accurate description of likely real-world conditions by including a new variable dubbed "Everyday 5G."

The researcher said this variable takes into account average speeds as the device switches from full-5G and 5G mixed mode, where 5G and LTE is used for the same data task. Everyday 5G was designed to represent the typical user experience, given the nascent stage of the country's 5G rollout.

EE offered the greatest level of coverage in Coventry, London and Birmingham, but was beaten by Vodafone in Bristol. It also offered the highest Everyday 5G speeds in Coventry, Bristol, and Birmingham, where it tied with O2.

This wasn't much of a surprise. EE was the first UK carrier to launch 5G services. In addition to this first-mover advantage, it has bought the largest spectrum holdings of any network.

The report also highlighted a decent showing from Three. Although it didn't register the fastest speeds in any of the cities tested, it made up for it in terms of coverage, reaching second place in Birmingham, Coventry, and London.

Vodafone reported solid speeds in all of the cities tested, clinching the silver medal in London, where its average Everyday 5G speeds of 121.9mbps were second only to O2.

Coverage proved to be somewhat of a mixed bag, with Vodafone lagging in almost all cities, save for Bristol, where its 5G network was available in 48.5 per cent of all tests.

Unsurprisingly, O2 fared poorly. The network was the last UK carrier to launch 5G services, and thus its dismal levels of coverage reflect its latecomer status.

O2 was dead-last for Everyday 5G availability in London, Birmingham, and Coventry (excluding Vodafone, which was completely absent).

However, Rootmetrics reported O2 had the fastest overall speeds in London, where it averaged 154.9 Mbps (Vodafone, the runner-up, averaged 121.9Mbps). And, as mentioned, it matched EE in Birmingham (163.7Mbps versus EE's 162.9Mbps).

EE may have some catching up to do, but it's also got some tailwinds in its favour. Unlike rivals, O2 didn't use Huawei's kit in its network, meaning it doesn't have to go through the costly rip-and-replace process.

It's also slowly building up its spectrum holdings, clinching some lucrative mid-and-low band wavelengths in the most recent Ofcom auction. ®

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