Three UK’s 5G network gives market leader EE something to think about

BT-owned EE has once more come out on top in RootMetrics’ latest UK mobile network report, but it can’t afford to rest on its laurels.

For the first half of this year, Three had the edge over EE when it came to 5G median download speeds, approaching 200 Mbps compared to EE’s approximately 150 Mbps. Both were comfortably ahead of Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone, which notched up 110 Mbps and 130 Mbps respectively. In UK-wide tests, Three’s 5G network also had slightly lower latency than its rivals. When it came to 5G availability, RootMetrics said that EE’s lead – which it established by being first to market – is narrowing.

“That was certainly the case for Three,” RootMetrics said in its report. “In fact, with Three increasing its 5G availability considerably since 2H 2021, Three’s 5G availability results were similar to those of EE during our UK-wide testing (both approaching 50 percent), with EE and Three a step ahead of both Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone (roughly 35 percent each).”

With more mid-band spectrum than any other operator, “Three’s 5G network is the one to keep an eye on,” said RootMetrics.

These findings tally with the results of a separate report earlier this year by Opensignal. It found that Three’s 5G network offered the fastest average download speed. It also found that Three customers observed the highest proportion of locations with a 5G signal than EE, VMO2 and Vodafone.

Before anyone gets too carried away though, when all mobile technologies are thrown into the mix, EE still comes first in RootMetrics’ ranking of reliability, accessibility, speed, data and calling performance, and joint first with VMO2 for text performance (see chart). Conversely, Three ranked bottom in terms of reliability, accessibility, and call performance. When it comes to speed, VMO2 remains in distant last place with a RootScore of 44.2, compared to third-placed Vodafone on 54.4.

“EE has won the UK overall RootScore award outright in every test period dating back to 2H 2013, giving EE honours as the UK’s best network for nine years and counting. The first half of 2022 also marks the tenth consecutive test period in which EE has ranked first in six categories total,” said RootMetrics. “Moreover, EE’s aggregate median download speed of 66.2 Mbps was over twice as fast as that of any other network.”

When it comes to the 16 major metro areas covered by RootMetrics’ test, EE was also the only operator to achieve a median download speed higher than 50 Mbps in all cities tested, and the fastest speed of any operator in 15 out of the 16 locations.

Unsurprisingly and, let’s face it, understandably, EE parent BT didn’t waste an opportunity to bask in the limelight.

“We are proud to be named the UK’s best network for the ninth year running. Reliability is of huge importance to our customers, and we pride ourselves on leading the industry,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT Consumer, in a statement. “I’m delighted to see the huge investments we make recognised once again and we will continue to expand the UK’s leading 4G and 5G networks across the nation.”


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