Modem life is rubbish: RootMetrics 5G stats show EE has widest UK coverage, but Three is the speed demon

Most UK cities now have some degree of 5G coverage, promising those with capable devices faster internet connections. But how much of a game change is it really? New data from RootMetrics highlight consistently nimble connections, albeit with some major differences between networks.

Take EE. At the time of RootMetrics’ investigation, it was the solitary carrier with 5G coverage in all 16 metro areas examined. Moreover, its availability in London far outstripped rivals, with 5G availability present in 28.8 per cent of all test sites, compared to O2’s 0.3 per cent and Vodafone’s 5.2 per cent.

EE’s 5G network also covered 40.2 per cent of RootMetrics’ Birmingham test locations, compared to Three, which hit 15.4 per cent of sites.

But what about speeds? These varied massively between networks and locations. Vodafone, for example, offered the fastest median download speeds in London at 181.8Mbps.

Three also performed strongly, despite having a relatively small network footprint compared to its older and more established rivals. It recorded the fastest median network speed of all carriers, with 193.7Mbps in Leicester. It also recorded the fastest overall speed of 478.1Mbps in Liverpool.

The median of EE’s 5G speeds was 103.9Mbps across all 16 markets surveyed. RootMetrics was unable to generate a median for O2 due to the limited number of markets it surveyed at the time of the investigation. O2’s best performance was in Belfast, where it offered 5G coverage in 0.6 per cent of all test sites, with a median speed of 121.3Mbps.

5G is inherently fast so these results aren’t particularly surprising. They do, however, serve to illustrate the relatively sluggish rollout of 5G to date, and the general lack of availability across the country.

Echoing that point, Andrew Ferguson from ThinkBroadband said: “The step change that 5G is showing in speeds is no great surprise.

“For areas that had the best 4G options previously, our own data has seen people using 4G handsets and getting speeds above the median RootMetrics is reporting for 5G. Of course, once you group those ‘best of the bunch’ 4G users along with everyone else, the median was massively lower.”

There’s still a long way to go, said Ferguson. “If 5G is to contribute to the UK 2025 Gigabit target, a lot of things need to change,” he argued. These include the deployment of additional masts on top of existing ones being upgraded to 5G, as well as support for frequencies above 6GHz.

The current political shenanigans with Huawei, however, are unlikely to help. ®

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