5G speed in UK: Vodafone, BT, EE, Telefonica’s O2 and Three

Ookla Speedtest Intelligence has examined the 5G network speed of leading telecom operators such as Vodafone, BT, EE, Telefonica’s O2 and Three.
Telstra broadbandMore and more communities are gaining access to 5G networks and speeds in the United Kingdom as operators expand 5G deployments across the nation.

Three’s 5G network covers 30 percent of the outdoor population.

Vodafone offers 5G service to 123 towns and cities.

O2 has 5G in over 180 towns and cities and EE plans on having 5G provide signal to over 90 percent of UK landmass by 2028.

Smartphone customers of U.K. operator 3 during Q1-Q2 2021 experienced a median 5G download speed of 231.07 Mbps.

Vodafone’s 5G customers experienced download speed of 159.49 Mbps.

Customers of Telefonica’s O2 experienced 155.54 Mbps download speed.

EE customers experienced 5G download speed of 151.03 Mbps.

Vodafone had the fastest median 5G upload at 19.69 Mbps during Q1-Q2 2021, followed by EE (18.42 Mbps), 3 (13.65 Mbps) and O2 (11.74 Mbps).

EE had the best 5G Availability at 17.9 percent. Vodafone was next at 10.3 percent, 3 followed (6.4 percent) and O2 was last (5.4 percent).

Mobile operator 3 achieved the fastest median 5G download speeds in three U.K. countries during Q1-Q2 2021: England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Utilizing C-band spectrum across the U.K., 3 achieved median 5G download speeds of 232.39 Mbps in England, 379.41 Mbps in Northern Ireland and 220.10 Mbps in Scotland. Wales didn’t reach our statistical threshold for analysis.

Vodafone had the fastest median upload speeds in England (19.68 Mbps). Scotland was too close to call, though Vodafone had a median upload speed of 21.23 Mbps while EE was at 20.71 Mbps. Northern Ireland was also too close to call for median upload speed with 3 at 20.16 Mbps and EE at 20.08 Mbps.

EE had the highest 5G Availability in England at 19.5 percent, while Scotland was too close to call. Northern Ireland and Wales showed too few samples to be analyzed for 5G Availability.

In March 2021, Ofcom awarded spectrum via auction in the 700 MHz and 3.6-3.8 GHz bands, with EE, O2 and Vodafone all increasing their C-band spectrum holdings, and 3, EE and O2 winning spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

The award of the U.K.’s remaining C-band spectrum to operators will help boost 5G performance, and Ofcom has allowed them to trade spectrum in order to help defragment U.K. operators’ C-band holdings.

Shortly after the auction, O2 and Vodafone announced they had reached a spectrum trading deal resulting in holdings that are closer and/or contiguous and therefore offer greater performance.

The allocation of the U.K.’s 700 MHz spectrum band, with its superior propagation properties, will be critical in helping the government deliver on its promise of majority (U.K. population) 5G coverage by 2027.

In addition, the government has proposed changes to laws in England which seek to speed up network deployment and increase coverage. These include allowing increases to cell mast height and width, the use of building-based sites closer to highways and relaxing rules on the placement of radio equipment cabinets.

Spectrum refarming will be important for the U.K. as operators begin to sunset spectrum in favor of 5G. “5G speeds won’t accelerate at the same rate we’ve seen in other countries like South Korea and China,” Ookla said.