Measuring mobile broadband performance in the UK

4G and 3G network performance

Published 02|04|15

This document outlines the results of Ofcom’s research into the performance of the retail 3G and 4G networks of the UK’s four national mobile network operators (MNOs): EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Following the conclusion of the 4G spectrum auction in February 2013, Ofcom stated that it would conduct research into the performance of 3G and 4G networks, with the intention of helping consumers understand the performance benefits of 4G over 3G and identifying any differences between MNOs’ networks, limited to the locations where all four MNOs’ networks are available.

The first research was conducted between March and June 2014, with the second wave of research (summarised in this report) in October and December 2014. In both cases, the research took place in five UK cities where 4G services were offered by all four MNOs. In the first research the tests were delivered in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester, while in the second research we tested in Edinburgh, Leeds, London, Newcastle and Poole/Bournemouth.

Our methodology involved using smartphones to measure four key metrics that relate to the experience of using a data connection: download speed, upload speed, web browsing speed (the time taken to load a web page) and latency (measured through ping tests).

To provide context to the results, this report includes 3G and 4G coverage information for each of the MNOs.

We note that network performance is only one element in a consumer’s decision to upgrade to a 4G service. This report is part of a wider programme of work by Ofcom into mobile quality of service, which also includes consumers’ experience of making and receiving mobile phone calls.