EE casts doubt on rivals 'exaggerated' 5G coverage claims

(Image credit: EE)

EE CEO Marc Allera has suggested its UK rivals make exaggerated claims about their 5G services - to the detriment of consumers.

Most analysis suggests EE offers the greatest availability and speeds of any 5G operator at present.  But the lack of a standardised system of testing means other operators are free to be selective about what criteria they claim to have the ‘best’ coverage or service.

The company has today switched on 5G in 13 more towns across the UK, bringing the total number of locations served by its next-generation network to 125. Three claims to have 154 while O2 has just announced it has achieved 150. 

EE 5G coverage

But in a company blog post to mark the news, Allera says EE would be free to make much more extravagant claims about its coverage if the company loosened its definition to match other operators.

However he added that this wouldn’t be appropriate at a time when more people than ever are reliant on their mobile connection.

“To be honest, it’s tempting,” Allera said. “By doing so, we would reveal 5G is actually in around 200 unique locations across the UK. However, we believe our claims should be as credible as our 5G is usable. We do not take our customers’ experience for granted.”

“During our initial 5G rollout, we are only announcing places with a minimum population of 10,000 people, within which we must be delivering 5G coverage to at least a third of that local population as well as the centre of the location. Once announced this is really only the start for 5G coverage as we continue to invest and grow coverage in those towns and cities.

“We know, through independent analysts, that networks which rush to announce places without proper coverage can offer a much narrower customer experience.”

Allera says one operator which claims to have the most 5G locations in the UK actually has lower coverage levels than EE in many of these towns and cities.

He adds that another rival that boasts of the best network in London justifies this claim based on a report that only tested a part of the capital where it had strong signal. 

Meanwhile, a third operator that claims to have the ‘best’ network in some of its marketing materials cites a customer service award as evidence rather than a network assessment. 

“The lack of consistency in how, where and when networks claim to have 5G is frustrating. Yes, it’s frustrating to us; every fair and meaningful award for network coverage EE repeatedly wins. But it’s also frustrating for customers, who might buy into a claim only to be disappointed with the actual coverage they receive. It’s an area we are keen to address and are already working with Ofcom to monitor.”

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.