back to article Median speeds for UK 5G four times faster than 4G, but still way behind US and South Korea

A first and limited look into the UK rollout of 5G has revealed punters enjoying median speeds up to four times faster than standard 4G, with EE coming out on top and Vodafone managing to be just twice as fast. The tests were conducted by RootMetrics in Birmingham between August and September 2019, prior to O2 and Three's 5G …

  1. israel_hands

    Scientific Method?

    I'm guessing nobody taught RootMetrics about only changing a single variable at a time. They should have tested using the same handset and swapping the SIM (or testing both SIMs in each handset). The results could just be down to one handset being shit at 5G.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      So you're saying that the SIM can have an effect on the phone's 5G performance ?

      How can that be ?

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Due to two different providers?

      2. israel_hands

        "So you're saying that the SIM can have an effect on the phone's 5G performance ?"

        No, I'm saying the handset has an effect on the network performance, so trying 2 SIMs in different handsets means you can't tell whether it's the network that's better or the phone's 5G capabilities.

        If they'd used the same handset with both SIMs then they could be reasonably sure it's the network they're measuring as that's the only variable they've changed.

        1. Def Silver badge

          To be fair though, the theoretical maximum transfer speeds of phones almost always outstrips the network's capabilities.

          My Huawei P20 Pro claims a maximum speed of 1200Mbps (can't remember where I read that, but I'm pretty sure that's what I read), while in reality on a 4G network I rarely see more than about 60Mbps.

          So yes, while it would have been nice of them to test different networks with each phone/sim combination for completeness sake, in this particular instance it probably wouldn't have changed very much.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          I understand now. Thanks for the clarification.

    2. leexgx

      Re: Scientific Method?

      Can't see why that matters both phones are the same, it's the network setup that matters

      Vodafone (12 month £30, 1 month £32) and ee (5g business plan £33 12m) do unlimited (o2 £35 for 12m and 3uk for £20/£21/£26 24/12/1m)

      The personal ee 5g plan is a rip off at £44 (all plans as well the 4g £33 unlimited plan should have 4g and 5g included as we don't live in the USA)

      There is smarty as well witch runs on 3 (unsure about them)

      I don't count virgin mobile not so unlimited as it has a 3.7mb/s speed cap on ip addresses that use a lot of data (like twitch and Google services) but you can bypass the speed cap

      Giffgaff I don't count as well as it has 40gb high speed cap and its speeds are still rubbish any way before you even hit 40gb

      1. Baldrickk Silver badge

        Re: Scientific Method?

        But the phones are not the same... they were two different models, from two different manufacturers, with different hardware inside...

        Sure the network setup matters, but so does the device receiving it.

        My old smart phone can only download ~20Mb/s over wifi. Not that it's ever been a problem.

        My desktop on the other hand, can max out my network connection, a comparatively large 80Mb/s and could do more if I paid for faster internet.

        Point is, different hardware (and sw) has different abilities and you can't make a meaningful comparison about the network when the hardware in use is different.

    3. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Scientific Method?

      Completely agree, but thinking about it, it could be that those are the 5G flagship handsets that the networks offer - so it's the performance you will get if you buy from that network, and the comparison is between the complete packages.

  2. ivan5

    Sounds all very nice but it might help if most people had a reliable 4G connection or even a 3G connection.

    1. Mike 137 Bronze badge

      Even nicer

      It would be even nicer to have any kind of reliable connection at all. The only place I can get an adequate signal is hanging over the bathroom sink. Turning my head cuts it off. And that's just a voice connection. No, not in the stix - just five miles outside the M25.

  3. Def Silver badge

    Meanwhile I have friends in Cornwall complaining about their banks using TFA because they can't even receive text messages in their house.

    1. RM Myers
      Unhappy

      Yes, but with 5G they will not get the messages so much faster!

  4. Stuart 22

    Wow, thats's really too fast for comfort ....

    Consume my whole monthly data allowance in just 45 seconds?

    1. batfink Silver badge

      Re: Wow, thats's really too fast ....

      But you'll be able to download your favourite movie in 26 seconds, instead of a couple of minutes! Imagine!

      1. Stuart 22

        Re: Wow, thats's really too fast ....

        But if its something big I'd be using wifi surely? Pretty fast and cheaper. And where there's no wifi there won't be any 5G.

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: And where there's no wifi there won't be any 5G.

          Sorry, that makes absolutely no sense. You seem to be conflating the two without reason.

  5. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Those speeds are fast compared to 4G but these tests have been done while hardly anyone is using 5G handsets. I doubt they will be sustainable in another 5+ years as more and more people get 5G compatible phones and the back haul bandwidth starts to get used up.

    1. John Sager

      The air interface will probably congest before the backhaul, unless the network designers are really asleep.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: ...unless the network designers are really asleep

        Unless the network designers are being artificially constrained by the bean-counters. But that would never happen.

    2. leexgx

      They wouldn't install the 5g until they have the required backhaul to cover it

      The radio side is what always gets maxed out first unless there is a broken backhaul link like there is about 5 miles away from me on ee (daytime speed is 0.1-0.5mb down and 40mb upload 220-300ms ping and high jitter on this specific mast Band 3 Band 7 and carrier aggregation doesn't matter what it's on)

  6. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    such bollocks is spoken about this subject

    Where I live, in Brentwood, Essex, about 25 miles from London, there is no signal whatsoever on EE and O2 - not even 2G - most of the time. A year ago I was wandering up the road to get MFA texts on O2 because they don't transmit texts using the wificalling system (EE do, so I switched). But OpenWretch have devised a sort of botched fibre connection to my house involving a copper connection to a street cabinet so I can get 80/20 broadband in my house. I believe they call it Fibre anyway.

    Seriously though, the speed is not relevant - nobody 'downloads' a movie to their phone. We stream them. We need a reasonably fast CONSISTENT connection. There is no actual real-world use-case (yet) for 1Gbps on a phone, But there is a use-case for a solid 50Mbps connection that stays at 50 while you are in a train going cross-country. There is a use-case for 200Mbps at home (just about). The whole point of 5G isn't the instantaneous speed, it's the high quality of service for many people at once. 4G can slow down in crowded areas (mind you, I got 200Mbps at Gatwick airport recently), and 5G is supposed to slow down LESS.

    Until we start actually being able to maintain a reliable connection during typical journeys and at different locations, people are going to get bored of these hyperbolae!

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

      Re: such bollocks is spoken about this subject

      You're right of course, but 50Mbps??

      A solid, consistent 50Kbps would be a good startingpoint for things like 'phone calls without dropouts, and always-on IRC ("the virtual water cooler"), and even web browsing without annoying hangs.

      1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

        Re: such bollocks is spoken about this subject

        50Kbps? Web sites? Were you being satirical? Maybe websites from 1995. But IRC, yes.

    2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: such bollocks is spoken about this subject

      nobody 'downloads' a movie to their phone. We stream them.

      Talk about a master of sweeping statements. Loads of people download movies to their devices,for the very fact they can't stream, don't want to stream, don't want to eat their data cap in a few minutes, or whatever. And probably using wifi, for the aforementioned reasons.

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: such bollocks is spoken about this subject

        No, the original comment was mostly accurate.

        We have had pretty much no requests for local file support from potential customers of our mobile video platform/player sdk. (We have support, but nobody cares.) Streaming is all content producers and publishers are interested in.

        That is how the vast majority of video on mobile is consumed. People of "our" generation might still enjoy downloading first, but we are by far the exception these days.

    3. BigAndos

      Re: such bollocks is spoken about this subject

      Yes agree completely. I live *just* outside the M25 in the countryside. I get the train into work in London every day and there are still black spots with no usable phone signal at all, not even for calls. Weirdly the worst of these black spots are well inside Greater London in built up areas (perhaps the network is just overloaded).

      I'm unlikely to ever use my phone for anything more data intensive than streaming an HD video from netflix (maybe 4K at a push but hardly necessary) in the near future. 4G would be more than adequate if the coverage was there.

      If they can roll out decent speed 5G with near universal coverage I obviously won't argue against it, I'm just not convinced it will happen. 4G was supposed to save us from bad coverage and hasn't even achieved than in one of the world's major cities, although it is good when it is available!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Faster than my home internet

    I'm in the southeast US. My home internet is about 25 mbps down, 2 mbps up. The only disadvantage I've found to these speeds is that cloud backups take a long time. Why the push for 200 mbps+?

  8. katrinab Silver badge
    IT Angle

    How fast is that really?

    I get slightly faster than that on O2's 4G, when I am at home. That is with a perfect 4G signal from an adjacent mast in a fairly low-density suburb. That obviously is not at all representative of what O2 is like anywhere else.

    Right now, 5G isn't available in that many places, and not that many people are using it, so the tests will likely be in perfect conditions, much like what I get at home, and not representative of what 5G will be like once it reaches mass-adoption.

    1. Long John Brass Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: How fast is that really?

      I'm looking to retire in the next few years & get the hell outa the rat race; Only big issue I worry about is internet. Mobile systems seem mostly fast enough (4g/5g) but few (none that I can find) off flat rate data.

      I'm pinning my hopes of star-link and it's ilk to bridge that gap. The wet string used for internet in non urban environments makes my skin crawl.

  9. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Mobile data is faster in the US?

    I have friends in rural areas still stuck on DSL (not vDSL, just normal ADSL) at a few megabits... because cable is not available and apparently local loop unbundling isn't a thing outside major cities stateside? They also pay 2-3x the (relatively premium) price I pay in Blighty.

    So... how the hell much does 5G cost in the USA and why is their regular 'normal' internet so sucky?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Mobile data is faster in the US?

      There are two major reasons for the difference. Reason number one is logical; the U.S. is really, really big. They have their share of large cities that can be cabled quickly, but you have a lot of very empty spaces. It's like that saying: "The difference between an American person and a British person is that the American thinks that a hundred years is a long time, and the British thinks a hundred [insert kilometers or miles depending on whether it's an American saying this] is a long distance". Running wires to all the places people live is expensive, so there is often no desire to do it again if there's something there already, and relatively little reason for other companies to compete outside the major cities. There are various places that are remote enough that there just isn't a cable; if you want internet, you either have to get satellite or pay for the installation of a cable.

      The second reason is purely economic and political. Competition is not considered an issue of major importance, and most places don't have it. The various regulations about what service levels are and what companies are allowed to do have frequently allowed service providers to lock down certain areas as captive markets. Even as regulations change, which they do from time to time, the inertia of past regulations carries on. For two examples, there was frequently a monopoly given to cable television companies who agreed to serve an area. When internet began to come along those cables, the companies with those monopolies had a great opportunity to assert their dominance in the fast-enough internet market as well. Meanwhile, companies were not required (and still aren't in most places) to share any infrastructure, increasing barriers to entry. Regulators frequently focused on geographic coverage rather than competition.

  10. Chris Beach

    Isn't the US currently only deploying millimetre 5G, the stuff that can't even cover a stadium? That's hardly like for like.

  11. localzuk

    By design?

    Are 5g companies rolling out "slower" speeds, so they can offer a "boost" package later which improves the speed for people who pay more? Like EE's 4G+ malarky?

  12. osmarks

    So apparently EE 5G would let me burn through my entire data cap in about 6 minutes. What a useful thing to have. Of course, I barely get 4G here, so I'll have to settle for downloading 4K movies on my regular home network connection now.

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