Three tops UK 5G availability charts, but EE wins on speed

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Three offers the greatest availability of any 5G network in the UK, according to a new report from OpenSignal, however users will probably still get a superior overall mobile experience on EE.

All four major operators have live commercial 5G services, having switched on their first masts in 2019.

- Three just launched a new SIM only tariff: 30GB data for just £10 per month

In addition to upgrading their radio infrastructure, EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all invested in new 5G core technologies and new spectrum to support their next-generation networks.

Coverage is gradually expanding across the UK and although OpenSignal has conducted 5G research in the UK before, this is the first time the company has presented 5G-specific awards.

5G UK speeds

All data used was collected from users with a 5G contract and a compatible smartphone between December and February, and recorded four key metrics – 5G download speeds, 5G upload speeds, 5G availability and 5G video experience.

According to the findings, Three customers spent the most time connected to a 5G network at 6.5%. This compared favourably with the 5.5% recorded on EE, the 4.6% on Vodafone and the 3.3% on O2.

All four operators delivered an ‘excellent’ video experience, with EE and O2 performing the best statistically, but EE continued its tradition of offering the best speeds.

Its average 5G download speed of 140Mbps was 8.6% faster than second-placed O2’s 128.9Mbps and more than a third quicker than fourth-placed Vodafone’s 103.1Mbps. EE also emerged on top in the 5G upload speed stakes with 16.4Mbps, ahead of Vodafone’s 14.7Mbps, Three’s 12.7Mbps and O2’s 10Mbps.

When all network technologies were taken into account, EE’s historical advantage in 4G meant that when subscribers couldn’t access a 5G network, they had a much better experience than when the same situation arose on another network.

EE offered average download speeds of 65.6Mbps, which was 48.1% faster than Three in second, while it’s 11Mbps average upload speeds were a third faster than nearest challenger Vodafone. Unsurprisingly, EE also offered the best video experience.

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.