These are the fastest 5G networks in the UK right now

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The rollout of 5G in the UK is boosting speeds and customer satisfaction as availability of next generation networks rises, according to new research from Ookla.

Data accumulated from the firm’s Speedtest app had shown that median download speeds had remained stagnant in recent years.

A modest increase from 21.44Mbps in H1 2019 to 23.96Mbps the following year had been recorded, but that figure umped to 29.96Mbps in 2021. Given the median LTE download speed actually fell slightly to 23.01Mbps over the past 12 months, it’s clear 5G is having an impact.

5G UK speeds

“This boost in the U.K. during Q1-Q2 2021 is due to a giant surge in consumers switching to 5G service,” the company said.

“According to Speedtest Intelligence, nearly seventy thousand more customers performed a Speedtest over 5G in Q1-Q2 2021 than in Q3-Q4 2020. 5G is inherently faster, which boosts median download speeds and we suspect speeds will continue to improve as network operators continue to build out their 5G networks to reach more and more customers.”

Of the operators, Three had the fastest median 5G download speed of 231.07Mbps, ahead of Vodafone’s 159.49Mbps, O2’s 155.4Mbps, and EE’s 11.74Mbps. However this is partly down to availability.

EE’s 5G network showed 17.9Mbps availability, compared to the 10.3% recorded on Vodafone, the 6.4% on Three and the 5.4% on O2. Vodafone led the way on upload speeds, beating EE to top spot.

Encouragingly, customers are far more satisfied with their mobile operator if they are on 5G rather than 4G, according to their net promoter scores (NPS).

When compared to the rest of the world, however, the UK is middle of the pack. Median 5G download speeds of 167.38Mbps and availability of 10.2% compare favourably with the rest of Europe but trail South Korea and China.

The UK has faster speeds than the US, which has 49.5% availability, but has lower upload rates than most of its main trading partners.  

However, with operators still at the early stage of their rollouts, the situation will improve as coverage expands, technical upgrades are applied, and new spectrum used.

A report earlier this year from Opensignal offered contradictory conclusions – it found that EE had the best speeds and Three the greatest availability. Although this report was based on data collected from a different methodology, it demonstrates the rapidly-changing nature of the market.

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.