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London lacking in 5G quality, study shows

Londoners receive a poorer quality of experience on 5G networks than residents of other major European cities, according to a new study that paints three of the four UK mobile networks in a less-than-positive light.

Mary Lennighan

January 17, 2024

3 Min Read

A new 5G quality of experience report from QoE testing and monitoring specialist MedUX is designed to demonstrate which UK mobile operators are performing the best in the capital across some key criteria. Spoiler alert: EE comes out on top by some margin. But an early peek at the firm's upcoming broader European report tacked on to the end of the London announcement arguably makes for more interesting reading.

Essentially, capital and other big cities in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain offer a better overall 5G experience than users are able to get in London. And that is surely food for thought for the UK mobile operators.

Well, for three of them, at least.

MedUX noted that its European report, due for publication next month, indicates "a notable margin for improvement in the UK's 5G landscape," but added an important caveat: "EE is not to blame for this struggle, but rather the average experience considering all mobile network operators in the UK's capital."

Indeed, as has become the norm with mobile network benchmarking reports, EE came out on top in the testing MedUX carried out in the third quarter of last year. The firm described BT's mobile arm as the "standout leader," noting that it offers the best overall experience and most reliable network, performing best in 5G availability, accessibility, Web browsing, gaming and video streaming.

There are a couple of categories in which its rivals shine. Vodafone has the most consistent 5G speeds, scoring the highest in average 5G download speed; Three has the highest 5G upload speeds; and Virgin Media O2 has the most reliable DNS resolution service. Admittedly, it feels like MedUX is clutching at straws a bit with that last point, but it had to find something positive to say about O2.

While London's laggard performance is clearly attributed to weaknesses at Vodafone, Three and O2, MedUX is doing its best to look on the bright side, noting that its results overall are "encouraging." But in a world in which operators and governments are constantly vying for technological prowess, the results of the upcoming study will sting a bit in the UK.

The city comes out on top in social media performance and boasts a streaming experience that's just shy of the best in class. That's to be applauded.

"However, apart from the worst overall experience, London gets the worst speed performance score in Europe. Additionally, it scores the second lowest in reliability (service consistency) and accessibility (time-to-content). In general, London networks fall behind in both DL and UL speeds, especially in 5G with average DL speeds up to 75% lower than Lisbon (Best-in-Class)," MedUX says.

It advises UK mobile operators to look at improving speed, and technology availability and accessibility. Sounds obvious, but it's easier said than done, particularly when the likes of Vodafone and Three are taking every opportunity to remind us that they need to merge in order to be able to afford network investment.

London is not exactly failing in 5G, it's just that other places are faring better. Specifically, Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Porto and Rome. The UK should take heed.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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