If you’ve paid much attention to the 4G rollout in the UK then you’re likely aware that EE is in the lead. With over 87% population coverage and some incredibly high speeds, helped by the presence of double speed 4G and LTE-A in some locations, it certainly sounds good, and it is, but its speed, reliability and footprint can vary substantially from one area to another.
With that in mind, and with the help of a RootMetrics special report, we’ve created this in depth look at how 4GEE fares for speed, footprint and reliability in various parts of the UK.
RootMetrics tested all of the networks extensively during the second half of 2014, posting results for the 16 main UK population centres, specifically Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, covering 50% of the total UK population and it’s these results which we’ll primarily be looking at.
Its footprint for these purposes is the likelihood of accessing 4G, so it’s not quite the same as coverage, but it gives you an idea of how consistently 4G is available in a location.
EE’s median footprint across the 16 tested markets was 79.3%. That’s pretty high and it fared similarly well when looking at individual markets. Its footprint was 92.9% in Belfast and it was the only network on which 4G was accessible in all 16 locations.
It only achieved a 48.5% footprint in Hull, but all of the networks struggled there and in fact that score is still higher than Three’s greatest footprint which stands at just 44%, while in most other areas EE’s was above 70%.
While EE’s reliability wasn’t found to be the highest of the networks (that honour went to Three) it was still very impressive.
While on 4G an initial connection was possible over 99% of the time in 15 of the 16 markets, while even in Leicester, the remaining market, a connection was made 96.5% of the time, which is still very high.
Connection rates were lower when 4G wasn’t available but still not bad, ranging from 80.9% in Belfast to 94.8% in Bristol.
Connecting is just the start though, to be truly reliable it must maintain a connection and in all 16 markets EE managed this 95% or more of the time, while in 14 of the 16 markets it managed it over 99% of the time when 4G was available.
When 4G wasn’t available it successfully completed web and app tests anything from 86.4% of the time in Hull to 97.1% of the time in Bristol, though rates fell below 90% in six of the markets.
It should come as no surprise that EE is the fastest UK network, given that it offers LTE-A in London and double speed 4G in numerous locations.
EE’s single fastest speed was recorded in Belfast, where it achieved 94.1Mbps. Bristol got a close second at 92.7Mbps and London wasn’t far behind either with a speed of 90.5Mbps.
Of course these are one offs and not really representative of what you can expect. For median speeds its highest was Belfast again, at 32.1Mbps. That’s over 10Mbps faster than the highest median speed recorded by any other network and EE also offered median download speeds of over 20Mbps in 12 of the 16 markets, which is far more than any other network, with its next closest competitor Vodafone managing the same feat in just three markets.
EE’s high speeds in London also suggest that congestion isn’t a problem for the network, which bodes well for the future.
EE continued to perform well even when 4G wasn’t available, with its fastest median 3G speed being found in Glasgow at 4.9Mbps, while the lowest was a showing of 1.3Mbps in Sheffield.
EE is the fastest 4G network in the UK overall, with the greatest population coverage and a high level of reliability. Based on these tests you can expect solid to great performance in any of the UK’s 16 busiest areas, but there’s a notable drop in performance in Hull.
However even there its performance isn’t terrible and all the other networks struggle similarly there. While EE offers high median download speeds everywhere it’s notably faster in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Nottingham and Glasgow than elsewhere.
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