In a recent Rootmetrics report entitled 4G in the UK: Fast Speeds and Expanding Footprints, the company assessed the state of 4G in the UK as a whole and looked at each of the major 4G providers in turn.
The report suggests that 4G mobile internet is in a continuous cycle of growth. As speeds and reliability pick up users increasingly use their mobile devices for everyday activities such as banking and work, as well as entertainment in the form of music and video streaming or gaming. This in turn increases demand for faster, more reliable 4G.
The 4G in the UK report was undertaken in response to the feeling that studies of 4G performance are often incomplete or only look at part of the story. Rootmetrics tested the four main providers across the UK’s 16 most populous areas, which included 50% of the UK population, and performed tests outside, inside, and in the car. The report aimed to uncover the real 4G performance that users could expect in different parts of the country, rather than providing sensational top speeds or national averages. It used five distinct benchmarks to measure 4G performance.
The 4G footprint benchmark assesses the likelihood of accessing 4G. There is little point knowing how fast or reliable a network is if you can’t actually access it in your area so 4G footprint is an important consideration.
For users reliability is often more important than speed. They want to be able to stay connected for the entirety of whatever task they want to perform, ensuring they won’t be interrupted. For this test Rootmetrics calculated each network’s failure rates on 4G and on non-4G service during tests that replicated a typical web or app experience.
For the report Rootmetrics tested both top speed to give an idea of the promise of 4G, and median speed to give a more realistic view of the everyday user experience. For this test all non-4G activity was stripped out to provide the speeds users would get if they could access 4G all the time. While speed is important in performing mobile internet activities with ease, once you have enough speed to do that any further increases in speed can be unnecessary.
In addition to 4G speeds, Rootmetrics looked at speeds when 4G was not available. As mobile devices default to the best available service when 4G is unavailable, knowing the speeds you can expect at these times gives a better idea of the overall experience. Currently no user will access 4G 100% of the time but as 4G footprints continue to grow this measure will become less important.
To gain a realistic view of the user experience, the report looked at median average speeds across all technology types (2G, 3G, and 4G). This provides an insight into the impact 4G has on overall speeds.
The report summarised the four networks as follows:
- EE—The fastest 4G and the largest 4G footprint
- O2—Rapid growth and improvement make it an emerging challenger
- Three—Slower 4G but strong when 4G wasn’t available
- Vodafone—Improving coverage and speed could alter the mobile performance race
While EE is still leading the 4G race overall, both in terms of footprint and speed, other networks are going through significant upgrades and are likely to present a challenge to EE in the near future. You can read the full results of the 4G in the UK: Fast Speeds and Expanding Footprints report here.