EE 5G has early advantage over Vodafone

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

EE’s 5G network is faster and available more of the time than Vodafone’s, according to new tests conducted by OpenSignal.

OpenSignal recorded ‘real life’ readings from user smartphones in four early adopters – Australia, South Korea, the UK, and US – connected to 5G networks that have been commercially available for more than six months. All in all, ten networks were assessed.

The tests aimed to show the extent at which 5G offered faster speeds than 4G networks in real life settings and the rate of 5G availability.

5G UK speeds

The fastest 5G network was Verizon with 506.1Mbps (18.4 times faster than 4G) with the slowest being T-Mobile’s 47Mbps (1.7 times faster than 4G). However these findings serve to illustrate the impact of the type of spectrum used to power 5G services.

Verizon is using mmWave spectrum in major cities. This bandwidth offers huge capacity but limited range. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is using low-band 600MHz which offers superior coverage. The difference is reflected in the availability of each network – Verizon’s is only available 0.5 per cent of the time, whereas T-Mobile’s is available 19.8 per cent of occasions.

Technical developments, such as improvements in backhaul, the densification of radio infrastructure, and upgrades to core networks will see T-Mobile’s speeds increase over time – as will the addition of Sprint’s mid-range spectrum to the network. Meanwhile, spectrum will boost Verizon’s availability.

Most 5G operators, including those in the UK, are using mid-band frequencies such as 3.4GHz to power the first wave of services. EE delivered average download speeds of 149.8Mbps and availability of 6.1 per cent, while Vodafone produced 122.1Mbps and 4.4 per cent.

South Korean operators outperformed the UK despite using the same frequencies. This is because they have greater quantities of adjacent spectrum, while 5G performance is also reliant on other factors such as radio technology, backhaul and core networks. All four major UK operators are making significant investments in their infrastructure, rolling out new spectrum, and there will be an auction of 5G airwaves later this year.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.