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Ofcom provides world’s most unsurprising revelation: 4G is faster than 3G

Ofcom has concluded, perhaps unsurprisingly, that 4G networks are significantly outstripping 3G ones in terms of performance in the UK. 

The regulator began researching the disparity between 3 and 4G networks following the 4G spectrum auction back in February 2013 and, after much digging, it has finally come up with some results. 

The watchdog tested over 120,000 samples in five towns (London, Leeds, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Poole) and found that the average 4G speed was 14.7Mbps, considerably more than the 5.9Mbps 3G was able to muster, and that increased speed saw 4G users able to load a webpage almost twice as quick as their poor, hard-done-by counterparts. 

The research also looked into the differences between networks in its sample towns too, and concluded that EE delivered the fastest average download and upload speeds, of 18.6Mbps and 17.6Mbps respectively.

Ofcom provides world's most unsurprising revelation: 4G is faster than 3G
Average download speeds, by provider, Q4 2014


EE also topped the charts for 4G upload speeds, delivering 17.6Mbps, followed by O2 with 13.2Mbps and Vodafone, which on average delivered uploads of 13.1Mbps. Three’s average 4G upload speed was 9.4Mbps.

Despite coming in last place in the speed stakes, Three was found to be the quickest for web browsing – essentially a repeat performance of Ofcom’s last four-way 4G gangbang

Boasting an average page-load time of just 0.63 seconds on 4G, Three outstripped the rest, who all mustered average load times of 0.77 (EE), 0.76 (Vodafone) or 0.71 (O2) seconds each. 

Three wasn’t able to deliver the best 4G coverage though. The carrier ranked last, reaching just 53 per cent of the country’s premises, while EE again rode high, covering 81 per cent. O2’s coverage jumped from 43 per cent in June 2014 to 66 per cent in March 2015 and Vodafone followed suit, with an increase from 37 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent in 2015, showing notable improvement. 

EE’s big lead may well have something to do with the fact that it was allowed to launch 4G services – in October 2012 – before anyone else. The UK Government wants 98 per cent of the population to be able to get 4G by 2017 – EE is aiming to go one better by then

Ofcom’s research also measured latency, the time between a person’s device communicating with the network, and the network ‘talking back’, and found that the average on 4G was 53.1 milliseconds, compared with 63.5 on 3G.

Once again, EE managed to take the tape ahead of its peers, with an average 4G latency of 48.4ms, ahead of Three on 50.9ms, O2 on 55.2ms and Vodafone, which brought up the rear with 59.5ms.

Despite 4G coverage growing exponentially, the government still feels that there is room for improvement, however, and a deal was recently struck with the four major operators, EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone, which will see them invest £5 billion to beef-up coverage up and down the country and do away with black spots.

Ofcom’s consumer and content group director Claudio Pollack said: “People are increasingly connected, communicating and sharing content on their mobiles when out and about.

“4G is delivering a significantly enhanced mobile experience and, as these services roll out across the UK, our research will support consumers when choosing the right mobile package for their needs.”


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