EE is still the UK's top-ranked mobile phone network

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Early tests of the UK’s active 5G networks are promising, according to RootMetrics, with speeds of 450.9Mbps recorded on the streets of Birmingham.

Testers also measured the performance of EE and Vodafone’s 5G services in London and Cardiff, with the former offering faster speeds and greater availability across the three cities.

It was on EE’s network that the headline figure in Birmingham was recorded, with Vodafone faster in Cardiff thanks to a maximum speed of 349.5Mbps. The capital was behind both cities, with the maximum speed recorded on EE being 327.1Mbps and the speediest on Vodafone being 314.8Mbps.

UK 5G speeds

O2 and Three’s 5G networks were not tested by RootMetrics due the fact they were not commercially available at the time, and the findings were not taken into account when calculating the overall performance of all four operators. O2 launched 5G late in 2019, while Three’s service is expected to launch in Q1 this year.

It’s also worth pointing out that the maximum speeds in the US and South Korea are 1.1Gbps and 902.7Mbps respectively. Nonetheless, RootMetrics say the future is bright for the UK as operators continue to rollout and invest in 5G technology.

“The speeds recorded in our 5G testing show game-changing differences, whilst lower latency will improve immersive user experiences such as virtual reality and gaming,” declared Kevin Hasley, Head of Product at RootMetrics. “Combine the faster speeds, lower latency and greater capacity of 5G, and we’re moving closer and closer to the core of what is required to provide a hyper-connected world.”

The UK’s 4G networks are also getting faster. Two years ago the fastest median download speed recorded in a major city was 38.4Mbps on Vodafone. In the second half of 2019, testers were able to get 51.6Mbps on EE.

The BT-owned operator cemented its position as the UK’s leading mobile network, finishing number one in all six categories tested. Vodafone was comfortably second, while O2 made significant strides in terms of speed and reliability thanks to the operator’s technical upgrades.

O2 shared third place overall with Three, which was the only operator not to record a median download speed above 20Mbps in any of the 16 locations tested. EE was the only network to provide 30Mbps in all markets, scoring an aggregate of 36.5Mbps. Vodafone achieved 19.8Mbps, O2 12.5Mbps and Three 11.7Mbps.

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.