Our latest report on the UK’s 5G experience shows that the country’s 5G networks are still relatively nascent, as our users with both 5G smartphones and 5G plans are still spending less than 10% of their time connected to 5G. In addition, they saw 5G in less than a quarter of the locations they visit on average. However, on three of the operators, our users spent more time connected to 5G, compared to our last report.
While EE has the same score as Vodafone for 5G Reach, its confidence intervals do not overlap with those of the highest scoring operator, 3, and therefore it is not tied with 3 as a joint winner.
3 said in August that its 5G outdoor population coverage had reached 30%. Meanwhile, EE is seeking to hit the 50% mark by early 2023 and achieve more than 90% landmass coverage by 2028. In August, Vodafone’s 5G service was live in was live in 123 towns and cities. The operator is also pushing ahead with 5G standalone access (SA) technology. Vodafone launched a commercial SA pilot in June, which includes a dedicated slice for Coventry University that will provide it with low-latency services to enable virtual reality distance learning. In Opensignal's first analysis of SA where it has already been deployed — on T-Mobile’s network in the USA — we saw early signs of an enhanced 5G experience.
5G appears to be helping EE’s competitors close the gap on download speeds. While EE is the winner of both the 5G Download Speed and Download Speed Experience awards (the latter in our companion report), EE’s 5G Download Speed score shows the least improvement — when compared with those of the other operators — over Download Speed Experience in percentage terms. EE’s 5G Download Speed score is 2.6 times faster than its Download Speed Experience score, while O2, 3 and Vodafone’s 5G Download Speed scores are 6.4, 5 and 3.9 times faster than their Download Speed Experience scores, respectively. However, as seen in our companion report, 5G users on EE’s network observed the fastest speeds on average when weighted by the proportion of time they spent on each generation of mobile technology (Download Speed Experience – 5G Users).
In comparison to our companion report — which looks at the overall experience of all our users across all generations of mobile technology — the awards are spread much more evenly, with every operator taking home at least two joint wins. EE is the only operator to win awards outright — the 5G Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed awards. It is also a joint winner for 5G Voice App Experience — as part of the three-way statistical tie alongside O2 and Vodafone — and shares the 5G Video Experience award alongside O2. Vodafone has the second largest haul with four joint wins to its name — including the 5G Games Experience award, which was also won by O2.
In this report we examine the mobile network experience of our 5G users when connected to 5G on the four main mobile network operators in the U.K.: 3, EE, O2 and Vodafone, over a period of 90 days starting June 1, 2021 and ending August 29, 2021, to see how they fared. We have also published a companion report — United Kingdom Mobile Network Experience — which analyzes the overall experience of all our mobile users in the U.K.