EE is leading 4G race, but rivals are closing in

Alex Yau
May 20, 2015

EE is currently leading the way in 4G coverage, but its major rivals are quickly closing the gap with upgrades.

This is according to tests by RootMetrics which looked specifically at 4G services across the UK. These tests were conducted during the second half of 2014, with four major networks tested side-by-side in areas covering 50 per cent of the UK population.

The cities covered were: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The results showed that EE had a median 4G footprint rate of 79.3 per cent across test areas. It’s worth bearing in mind that this UK-wide footprint doesn’t mean that a customer has a 79.3 per cent chance of accessing 4G everywhere they go. Rates can vary between individual markets and some areas have more 4G connections available than others.

Vodafone had a 4G footprint of 58.2 per cent across all markets, O2 had 52.7 per cent and Three had 24.8 per cent.

EE offered 4G in all 16 markets tested and had a 92.9 per cent footprint in Belfast. O2 and Vodafone offered 4G in 13 markets, but rates never exceeded 72 per cent in any market. Three offered 4G in 14 markets, but coverage rates never went over 44 per cent in any market.

EE download speeds

Results from the report also showed that EE was also ahead of its rivals in terms of maximum download speeds. Its best speed measured at 94.1Mbps in Belfast. O2’s fastest was 64.7Mbps in London. Vodafone’s fastest was 64.5mbps in Belfast and London, whilst Three’s fastest speed came to 50Mbps in Sheffield.

Median download speeds for EE were measured at 20Mbps in 20 markets, whilst Vodafone achieved this in three and O2 in two. EE’s biggest median download speed measured at 32.1Mbps in Belfast, whilst O2 and Vodafone recorded 22Mbps and 21.7Mbps in Nottingham respectively. RootMetrics said these O2 and Vodafone’s speeds were impressive and noted that they could be closing in on EE.

RootMetrics noted that, although maximum speeds show a network’s full potential, median speeds have more impact on everyday activity and offered consumers totally different experiences when not connected to 4G.

At moments where 4G was unavailable, Three performed well and recorded its fastest median download speed of 7.3Mbps in Belfast. EE’s fastest non-4G speed was 4.9Mbps in Glasgow, O2’s was 2.6Mbps in Liverpool and Vodafone’s was 3.1Mbps in Manchester.

RootMetrics CEO and president Bill Moore said: “2014 was the first year in the UK when all the major networks were providing 4G services, and it appears each has had its success in deploying services across the country.

“We have seen some startlingly fast speeds in pockets of the UK and overall median speeds are substantially higher than 3G. What is even more encouraging is the reliability of services once customers are on 4G. The growing footprint of each network means as more customers are able to access 4G, they will be able to consistently access all the benefits 4G brings.”

For more on EE, visit What Mobile’s dedicated EE page. 

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