The UK's 5G network still needs a lot of work to modernise

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The UK 5G network is failing to live up to its promise depsite strong growth across much of the country, new research has claimed.

The next-generation networks are only being delivered to 5G-enabled phones a fifth (20%) of the time according to new findings from benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS).

This is despite 5G now being deployed across more than a third (37%) of the UK, with signifcant gaps in performance already in certain areas.

UK 5G strength

The benefits of 5G are becoming evident to users across the UK, with average speeds boosted nearly five times in areas where 5G is available.

GWS found that the strenght and reliability of 5G connections can differ for users living in the same town or city due to the way different operators have deployed their networks.

Overall, GWS' testing found that 5G signal is, on average, available 40% of the time in UK cities and 16% in towns - however at the same time, the network is completing tasks on 5G just 23% of the time in cities and only 8% in towns.

O2 was found to be the UK's most reliable network, ranking top in 18 out of 37 locations tested to take the award for the third year in a row.

“As next-generation technology is added into the network at more locations with overall speeds increasing and as new, feature-rich devices are introduced, customer expectations about network reliability remain constant - they want a network that they can rely on that will deliver the services they need," said Dr Paul Carter, CEO, Global Wireless Solutions.

“The results of our latest national testing show signs of good things to come for those with 5G-enabled phones across the country. Deploying a network nationwide isn’t instantaneous and each of the operators will face their own independent challenges. While we’ve seen significant improvements in speeds due to 5G, to realise predictable 5G coverage across entire cities and other locations, it’s simply going to take time.”

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.