UK 5G download speeds accelerate in Q2
Written by: Richard Hook | Published:
Overhead shot of Dundee harbour and bridge Ookla revealed Scotland has the fastest 5G download speeds in the UK, including Dundee where EE began providing 5G coverage earlier this year (credit: EE)

A new report has highlighted a “noticeable” increase in median download speeds and access to 5G networks across the UK following two years of “stagnant speeds”.

Ookla’s Q2 2021 Speedtest Intelligence report revealed that across the four leading mobile networks - EE, 02, Three and Vodafone - median download speeds reached an average of 167.38Mbps over the second three months of the year.

According to the report's authors, operators have increasingly expanded 5G deployments during the period while there was also “an acceleration in moves by the government and network operators to drive further improvements in network coverage and performance”.

The UK’s median download speeds now match up positively among major nations, ahead of Japan at 163.68Mbps, Germany at 142.21Mbps and well ahead of the United States at 81.04Mbps. The only two major nations ahead of the UK’s operators are China (302.78Mbps) and global leader South Korea (440.53Mbps).

By contrast, the UK’s average upload speed of 15.91Mbps was lower than all major nations except France. However, the report’s authors explained that “the reason why uploads are only a little better than those of existing 4G services above is because most of the current 5G deployments still make some use of some 4G connectivity and spectrum, which won’t change until Standalone (SA) 5G is more widely deployed”.

The report also measured each of the four major mobile networks’ performance and found that Three UK had by far the fastest median 5G download speed at 231.07Mbps. Vodafone followed with 159.49Mbps, O2 was next with 155.54Mbps and EE reached 151.03Mbps. Vodafone had the fastest median 5G upload speed at 19.69Mbps during the period, followed by EE with 18.42Mbps, Three with 13.65Mbps and O2 with 11.74Mbps.

There is also disparity in deployment with EE currently having the best 5G availability across the UK at 17.9%. Vodafone was next with 10.3%, followed by Three with 6.4% and O2 with 5.4%. In addition, Three UK’s 5G network now covers 30% of the “outdoor population”, Vodafone offers 5G service to 124 towns and cities, O2 has 5G in over 180 towns and cities and EE recently revealed plans to provide 5G “signal to over 90% of UK landmass” by 2028.

Across the UK’s four countries, Scotland was found to have the fastest 5G download speeds on average at 178.30Mbps with England being the slowest at 165.42Mbps albeit while having by far the broadest availability at 10.3%.

The report’s authors concluded that “the recent [Ofcom auction] allocation of the country’s 700MHz spectrum band, with its superior propagation properties, will be critical in helping the government deliver on its promise of majority UK population 5G coverage by 2027”.

The analyst also predicted that “spectrum refarming will be incredibly important for the UK as operators begin to sunset spectrum in favour of 5G”, but until that happens, Ookla did not expect UK 5G download speeds to accelerate at the same rate to match global leaders South Korea and China.

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