4G in London in 2015

Rootmetrics has recently released an in-depth report on the state of 4G in London, so this week we’ll be looking at the urban mobile experience in various places around the capital. This post will take an overall look at the performance of the different networks in the centre of London, while the next two posts will dig deeper into the state of 4G in London’s biggest venues, and in transport hubs such as airports and railway stations.

4G in London
Rootmetrics began its report by looking at 4G performance in the densely populated London Urban Zone during the first half of 2015. Around 60,000 tests were performed in several districts including Bloomsbury, Canary Wharf, Chelsea, City of London, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and Westminster. Voice call, mobile internet, and text performance were measured in various situations including indoors, walking along the street, and driving along the road, to mimic the various circumstances in which people use their mobile devices in London.

Given the dominance of EE within the UK, we’d be forgiven for expecting an EE whitewash in London, but in fact it was a close run race between EE and Vodafone – which has been investing heavily in its 4G network. For network speed and mobile internet performance EE came in first place, but for network reliability and call performance it was beaten by Vodafone. For overall performance the two networks were neck and neck. The only category that wasn’t won by EE or Vodafone outright was text performance, where Three, O2, and EE tied for first place.

As expected speed was EE’s strongest area, achieving a median speed of 29.9 Mbps which was triple that of second place Vodafone at 8.6 Mbps. EE’s median speeds were found to be fastest in Knightsbridge at 40.6 Mbps and slowest in Mayfair at 20.4 Mbps. Downloading a 5MB song took 2.1 seconds on average with EE, compared with 5.4 seconds on Vodafone, 7.2 seconds on O2, and 7.4 seconds on Three.

Reliability and call performance were the major categories where Vodafone edged ahead of the other 4G networks. Vodafone achieved a blocked call rate of 1.3% compared with 2.6% for EE, 1.8% for O2, and 2.6% for Three. Its dropped call rate was 0.5% which was the same as O2, and slightly better than EE at 0.6% and Three at 0.8%. Vodafone’s blocked call rate was best in Knightsbridge and Canary Wharf at just 0.2%, while the most blocked calls were experienced in Westminster at 3.9%.

As mobile devices are becoming an increasingly important part of the shopping process, Rootmetrics tested network performance at two of London’s busiest shopping centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City. EE stood out as the overall winner at Westfield Stratford City, while Vodafone and EE drew for first place at Westfield London, but there were big discrepancies between the two centres. At Westfield Stratford City the time taken to upload a picture – perhaps a selfie of a potential outfit – was just 1.5 seconds with EE compared with 15.8 seconds with Vodafone, 19.2 seconds with O2, and 24.8 seconds with Three. The results were much closer a Westfield London where the same task took 8.3 seconds with O2, 10 seconds with Three, 11.2 seconds with EE, and 12.8 seconds with Vodafone.

Overall EE still leads the way in the London Urban Zone but Vodafone is emerging as a strong contender, particularly regarding reliability. One surprise in the report was that Three – a network that is usually seen as EE’s strongest competitor at national level – was often trailing behind other 4G networks in the capital city for reliability as well as speed.