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5G is 5x faster than 4G in the UK - but coverage is still poor

Ookla map of 5G coverage for MNO Three UK.
(Image credit: Ookla.)

In its 2020 Q3 testing, Speedtest Intelligence and Ookla Cell Analytics have revealed that 5G speeds in the UK are now 517.8% faster than the median download speed over 4G.

And although mean 5G download speeds were far better than 4G for all the UK’s major mobile network operators (MNOs), it was Three that secured the fastest speeds, with a mean download speed of 196Mbps in London.

Ookla 5G speed results for London.

(Image credit: Ookla.)

"Given the massive advantage over its 5G competitors, Three is able to consistently deliver the fastest 5G speeds.”

Ookla.

“When it comes to 5G, all operators have deployed 5G non-standalone networks in the 3.5GHz to 3.6GHz band,” an Ookla spokesperson said. “EE and O2 operate their 5G networks using 40 MHz slices, Vodafone holds a 50 MHz license, while Three was able to secure a 100 MHz license during the 5G auction — the largest possible channel width defined for FR1 networks. Given the massive advantage over its 5G competitors, Three is able to consistently deliver the fastest 5G speeds.”

5G coverage is still very low

However, according to a 5G report from Umlaut, even in cities where 5G has been introduced, coverage can fluctuate from 5% to 15%, with regional coverage even lower, with the likes of the North East having less than 1% of geographic 5G coverage. 

“The upcoming Ofcom spectrum auction in early 2021 should offer additional capacity in the 3.6-3.8 GHz range as well as the 700 MHz band, which should enable much wider 5G coverage across the UK,” Ookla said. “Devices capable of aggregating low and mid 5G spectrum bands are also expected in the first half of 2021, which should allow operators to efficiently roll out standalone 5G and deliver broader 5G coverage with even faster speeds and ultra low latency.”

And with fewer people accessing 5G in Scotland, the country currently boasts a 6.1% faster mean download speed for 5G than Ookla recorded as a whole. (England was the second fastest country in the UK for mean download speed, and Wales was third.)

For a full overview of the current state of 5G in the UK, you can visit Ookla’s blog post here. And to see how your connection compares, you can perform a 5G speed test using one of our selected apps.

Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.