Operator comes out on top with the best 4G download and upload speeds, with London finishing bottom out of five major cities in most categories
EE has come out on top in the latest 4G speed tests conducted by telecoms regulator Ofcom.
Using smartphones, some 210,000 tests of 4G and 3G mobile broadband were carried out both indoors and outdoors across Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester between March and June.
The research compared the performance of 4G and 3G services overall and highlighted variations across four key measures: download speed, upload speed, web browsing speed and latency.
It found that the average 4G download speed on EE was 18.4Mbps, with O2 coming in at 15.6Mbps. Both were above the overall average 4G speed of 15.1Mbps – twice as fast as 3G (6.1Mbps).
Vodafone recorded a download speed of 14.3Mbps, with Three delivering 10.7Mbps. The latter was the last operator to launch 4G when it began rolling out services last December.
EE also came top with the fastest download speed on 3G, recording 6.8Mbps. It was followed by Vodafone (6.7Mbps), O2 (5.6Mbps) and Three (5.2Mbps).
The tests also found upload speeds to be seven times faster on average than 3G – 12.4Mbps compared to 1.7Mbps.
EE lead the way again with the fastest upload speed on 4G with 14.7Mbps, with O2 delivering 13Mbps, Vodafone 11.4Mbps and Three 11.1Mbps.
The highest 4G and and 3G speeds were recorded in Edinburgh (16.8Mbps and 7.8Mbps respectively). London had the lowest average 4G (13.1Mbps) and 3G (4.1Mbps) download speeds.
However, Three achieved the fastest upload speed with 1.7Mbps. EE and O2 were tied on 1.6Mbps, while Vodafone followed closely behind with 1.5Mbps.
Manchester had the highest average 4G upload speed (13.2Mbps), while Glasgow had the lowest (11.8Mbps). The highest 3G upload speeds were recorded in Edinburgh and Glasgow, while the lowest were found in London (1.4Mbps).
It takes less than a second for a basic web page to load on a smartphone using a 4G mobile connection, according to the research, taking on average 0.78Mbps across all networks.
Three offered the fastest web browsing experience on both 4G (0.62 seconds) and 3G (0.93 seconds). EE provided the second fastest web browsing experience on 4G (0.76 seconds) and 3G (1.05 seconds).
London recorded the fastest web browsing speed, taking an average of 0.72 seconds to load a standard web page, with Glasgow taking the longest (0.82 seconds). 3G web browsing was quickest in Manchester (1.01 seconds) and slowest in London (1.2 seconds).
The tests also measured network latency, which is the time it takes data to travel to a third-party server and back, which Ofcom said is important to reduce delays when making video calls, for example.
Three took the least time to deliver data, both on 4G (47.6ms) and 3G (53.8ms). O2 had the highest levels of latency, with 62.7ms on 4G and 86.4ms on 3G.
Latency on 4G was lowest in London (48.8ms) while Birmingham had the lowest levels on 3G (63.6ms). Edinburgh recorded the highest levels for both 4G and 3G with readings of 60.3ms and 69.4ms respectively.
Ofcom said the second phase of this research in under way and expects to publish the results next Spring.
Chief executive Ed Richards said: “Having fast, reliable broadband on the move is vital for many consumers and businesses across the UK. Today’s research shows 4G is providing a significantly enhanced mobile broadband experience to customers, which we expect to be available to 98% of the UK population by 2017 at the latest.
“Improving mobile quality of service is an important area of Ofcom’s work. Our research both incentivises mobile providers to offer a higher quality of service, while helping consumers choose a mobile package that best suits their needs.”