A new report from Global Wireless Solutions has benchmarked the 5G mobile performance of EE, Vodafone and O2 UK’s networks in London, which overall found that they were delivering download throughputs some 3-4x faster than 4G, although the latency times of 35-40ms weren’t much better than 4G and a far cry from the sub-10ms goal.
At present the new generation of ultrafast 5G based mobile broadband networks have only just started to be deployed and the tested operators can only access a single 40-50MHz slice of the 3.4GHz band, which remains a significant performance hindrance (the best existing 4G networks can access multiple bands at the same time). All of this will change as more bands are released by Ofcom in 2020 and the networks grow their coverage, as well as backhaul capacity.
However, even in these early months of commercial deployment, EE saw download task throughputs above 350Mbps during testing (at various locations), while O2 and Vodafone both experienced download task throughputs above 200Mbps. This is roughly in keeping with similarly early studies from RootMetrics (here and here).
GWS found that speeds did vary significantly across the capital, although certain locations saw spikes of super-fast connectivity; for example, the testing delivered instantaneous peaks of over 470Mbps for EE around St Paul’s Cathedral, 330Mbps from O2 at Victoria Station and over 320Mbps from Vodafone in Belgrave Square.
Upload speeds, another key component of the advances attributed to 5G technology, also saw maximum task throughputs of over 60Mbps for Vodafone, and over 30Mbps for both EE and O2. Good but admittedly 4G has been able to deliver similar upstream performance in some areas.
Overall, the operators were able to complete 35% of the data tasks at download speeds above 100Mbps and 46% of the tasks at upload speeds above 20Mbps. To put these speeds into perspective, the download throughputs are three to four times faster than what GWS found during previous 4G testing in London.
Paul Carter, CEO of Global Wireless Solutions, said:
“In the early stages of 5G deployment in London, the speeds we witnessed indicate signs of good things to come for consumers that have a 5G phone – especially in comparison to what we have observed in previous 4G tests. As part of our own additional qualitative research, we discovered that consumers have (over the past 6-7 years since 4G was launched) come to consider the performance of 4G as the new minimum technology standard. Although still in its early stages, 5G technology will likely very quickly follow suit as the new normal in the future, so the potential is indeed exciting.
However, the development of any new network is never an instantaneous process, and the rollout of 5G across the UK with its promise of ultrafast, super-reliable connectivity will be a more gradual shift towards these advanced capabilities. For the time-being, 5G will involve a ‘mesh’ of both next-generation and existing networks all working together to deliver consistent coverage to customers. It’s also clear that the route to ubiquitous 5G coverage is not going to be without its hurdles, with each operator experiencing unique challenges dependent on how the various components of their next-generation networks are designed. The spikes in the test data reveal that promises of faster speeds can be delivered, but ultimately, it’s the consistency and reliability that is most important to consumers.
Based on the limited number of sites with 5G antennas combined with the distance constraints of higher frequency 5G signals, it’s going to be a challenge to get 5G access in buildings. Given that the mobile network operators have a significant rollout ahead of them to fully realise the potential of 5G, we might also benefit from a review of restrictions governing signal mast height and placement to allow more antenna sites in more convenient locations, rather than just placing them on rooftops. As the test has shown, we need only look at the potential benefits that next-generation network connectivity can bring to see why it’s important to do so.”
We should point out that GWS conducted just three days of testing across London from November 6th through to 8th 2019. On top of that all of these tests were done using Samsung Galaxy 5G phones powered by GWS’ OneMeasure diagnostic app.