November 26, 2012

4G Network Coverage Tested and Found Lacking

4G was launched in the UK in 11 cities in October via EE ( which owns Orange and T-Mobile ) and is promoted as “superfast” mobile broadband which is 5 times faster than 3G. The 4G network will be increased to cover 16 cities by the end of 2012. EE currently has 6 4G phones, 1 4G tablet, 1 4G Wi-Fi device and 1 4G dongle to take advantage of its faster 4G download speeds.

EE were able to launch 4G before Vodafone, O2 and Three after they received a concession from Ofcom ( the Telecom regulator ) to launch 4G services ahead of the 4G auction scheduled for Spring of 2013. Vodafone, O2 and Three have to wait for the 4G auction to be concluded and cannot launch 4G themselves until May, 2013.

4G.co.uk expected that if EE has launched 4G  in 11 cities that the 4G signal coverage across those cities would be a “blanket coverage” with a high percentage of areas where a 4G signal could be received. Apparently, this is far from what is happening in the real world. A comprehensive 4G mobile network test paints a totally different picture.

RootMetric undertook a comprehensive test of EE’s 4G network in Manchester and shared these with the BBC and the results have surprised us here at 4G.co.uk. The 4G mobile network test results reveal that only 40.2% of the tested Manchester locations could receive a 4G signal while outside of the city there was zero 4G signal reception.

Another key area that RootMetric looked at was the speed of EE’s 4G mobile network in Manchester. This is vital to the initial success of 4G over the current 3G mobile network. RootMetric say that the average speed when a 4G signal was received was 17Mbps but this dropped to an average of 7.6Mbps across all locations. This was quicker than Vodafone’s 3G network in Manchester which had an average speed of 3.1 Mbps. The RootMetric 4G tests were conducted on a 4G enabled Samsung Galaxy S3.

The download speed between 3G and 4G can be quite significant when you consider that a 20MB game would take 3 minutes to download on 3G and only 25 seconds on 4G.

4G are a little surprised at these results as this is exactly what happened when Three launched 3G back in 2003. We expected EE to have learnt from when they ( Orange and T-Mobile ) launched 3G with similar issues but this doesn’t seem to have happened in Manchester at least.