UK’s 5G rollout progressing well, with average speeds boosted nearly five times

The UK’s 5G rollout is progressing well, with average speeds boosted nearly five times in areas where 5G is available, according to mobile network benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS).

Image credit: Starline

Its latest nationwide test assessed the mobile network performance of the four major operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, and is the first to incorporate 5G network performance into each company’s OneScore rankings.

Based on network scanner testing, 5G is now available across 37% of the markets tested by GWS. The report shows that once a market reaches a certain level of 5G coverage, average network speeds are significantly boosted. Average speeds during network capacity stress tests where 5G is delivered are 150 Mbps across all operators, compared with 33 Mbps in areas where there is no 5G present.

GWS also analysed the test results to determine what level of 5G coverage across an entire market (city or town) is needed to achieve a certain minimum threshold of speed for that market. GWS discovered that in order to achieve a baseline of 100 Mbps average network speed throughout an entire market, operators must first achieve around 40% coverage in that market.

In addition to achievements in speed, testing revealed that success rates for tasks completed with 5G were well over 99% across all operators.

The report found that each operator is approaching its deployment strategy differently. In particular, operators are focusing on deploying 5G at different locations and with varying percentages of 5G per city, town or motorway. Further, Vodafone’s network was completing tasks on 5G roughly three quarters of the time 5G signal was available, while the others were completing tasks on 5G around half the time.

Throughout testing, GWS found that 5G signal is, on average, available 40% of the time in UK cities, 16% in towns, and 11% on motorways, while at the same time the network is completing tasks on 5G just 23% of the time in cities, 8% in towns, and only 5% of the time along motorways.

In terms of overall network reliability – clearly more crucial than ever right now, as the pandemic continues – O2 earned the title of the UK’s Most Reliable Network for the third year running, ranking top in 18 out of 37 locations tested in the UK according to GWS’s OneScore network reliability testing. O2 is also the most reliable on the UK’s major motorways, M1, M6, M25 and M62. It is followed in the overall rankings by EE, which has wins in 16 locations. Vodafone has wins in 3 locations while Three has no wins.

These findings are borne out by GWS’s consumer survey, which found that even during the lockdown 39% of O2 customers were always satisfied with their network’s reliability, compared to 33% of EE customers, 31% of Vodafone customers and 30% of Three customers.

Dr Paul Carter, CEO, GWS, commented: “As next-generation technology is added into the network at more locations with overall speeds increasing and as new, feature-rich devices are introduced, customer expectations about network reliability remain constant – they want a network that they can rely on that will deliver the services they need.

“The results of our latest national testing show signs of good things to come for those with 5G-enabled phones across the country. Deploying a network nationwide isn’t instantaneous and each of the operators will face their own independent challenges. While we’ve seen significant improvements in speeds due to 5G, to realise predictable 5G coverage across entire cities and other locations, it’s simply going to take time.”

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