An Ofcom report released last week outlined the progress of 4G within the UK and compared the four major 4G networks in terms of download speeds, web browsing speeds, upload speeds, and latency, in five major UK cities.
Ofcom’s report indicates the current state of the nationwide 4G rollout, stating that EE’s 4G network now covers 81% of UK homes and businesses, while O2 covers 66%, Vodafone covers 65%, and Three covers 53%. When comparing 4G performance to 3G, the report shows that average download speeds for 4G (14.7Mbit/s) are more than twice that of 3G (5.9Mbit/s). Upload speeds showed an even greater difference with average upload speeds of 13.6 Mbit/s on 4G and 1.6 Mbit/s on 3G.
Let’s take a look at how the various networks performed in different categories:
4G download speeds
Download speeds are important to 4G users as they impact downloading music, games, or files. EE delivered the fastest download speeds averaging 18.6Mbit/s. Three delivered the slowest download speeds averaging 8.5Mbit/s.
4G web browsing
Web browsing is one of the most common activities performed using 4G so web browsing speed, which measures the time taken to load a standard web page, is an important metric. Average web browsing speeds on 4G were 0.72 seconds, and all networks achieved similar speeds. Three was the fastest at 0.63 seconds, followed by O2 at 0.71 seconds, Vodafone at 0.76 seconds, and EE at 0.77 seconds.
4G upload speeds
4G users demand quick upload speeds for sharing content such as photos and videos via social media. Against an average upload speed of 13.6Mbit/s, EE performed best averaging 17.6Mbit/s. O2 came second at 13.2Mbit/s, followed by Vodafone at 13.1Mbit/s and Three at 9.4Mbit/s.
Latency measures the responsiveness of a network and lower latency is better for gaming, video calls, and web browsing. Against an average 4G latency of 53.1 milliseconds, EE was the winner at 48.4ms, followed by Three at 50.9ms, O2 at 55.2ms, and Vodafone at 59.5ms.
Ofcom tested 4G networks in Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Poole/Bournemouth – where both 4G and 3G networks have been rolled out – between October and December 2014. The same tests had been performed in London and Edinburgh between March and June 2014 so trends in 4G performance could be established. There were no significant changes in London but in Edinburgh the average download speed reduced by 12.5% between Q2 and Q4 2014, suggesting that overall performance decreases as more users sign up for 4G services. However average web browsing speeds improved from 0.8 seconds to 0.72 seconds during the same period.
The Ofcom report is intended to provide information that can help consumers understand how 4G and 3G mobile networks perform and support consumers in choosing a service that best suits their needs.
According to Claudio Pollack, Consumer and Content Group Director at Ofcom, “People are increasingly connected, communicating and sharing content on their mobiles when out and about. 4G is delivering a significantly enhanced mobile experience and, as these services roll out across the UK, our research will support consumers when choosing the right mobile package for their needs.”