UK lagging behind Europe for mobile data speeds


Research from benchmark app Netradar found Three was UK’s fastest network, O2 slowest

Mobile internet in the UK is slower than rival operators in France and Germany, according to research from mobile benchmark app Netradar.

In 2014, the average download speed for operators in the UK was 5 Mbps, compared with 8.4 Mbps in France, 6.1 Mbps in Germany and 5.4 Mbps in Italy.

People living in Scandinavian countries experienced the fastest speeds in Europe, with speeds of  Denmark 22.3 Mbps, 16.6 Mbps in Switzerland and 14.8 Mbps in Norway.

The results were compiled from data generated by normal consumers using the Netradar measurement app, which gives users information about the quality of their connectivity. The data is uploaded and processed by Aalto University in Finland.

“Several factors explain why mobile phone users reach different internet speeds in different countries,” said Netradar project leader Professor Jukka Manner, of the Aalto University. “Mobile internet speed depends not only on mobile network operators, but also on used devices, speed limitations in the subscriptions, user’s distance from the operator’s antenna, landscape, available radio technologies and how congested the mobile network is.”

The data also showed results for each UK-based network, with Three users experiencing the fastest average speeds at 6.3 Mbps. Aalto Universit split EE’s customers in to T-Mobile and Orange, with the former coming second with speeds of 5.6 Mbps.

Vodafone was third in the UK, with speeds of 4.9 Mbps, while Orange came in fourth with speeds of 3.6 Mbps. O2 users experienced the slowest average speeds, according to the results, with an average download speed of 3.1 Mbps.

The Netradar app is currently installed on almost 200,000 devices and has more than five million measurements from across the globe. The app is available on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Nokia X, Meego, Symbian and Jolla/Sailfish.

UK operator’s reaction

Some of the UK networks questioned the depth of the studies carried out by Netdata, with an O2 spokesperson pointing out that the results showed only 2,431 results from its 24 million customer base.

“This report is just one of the many testing houses/apps operating in the marketplace and represents a fraction of our 24 million customers,” said the O2 spokesperson. “Our own extensive independent network tests carried out last year by Spirent Communications placed O2 as the number one network overall for upload speed and number two for download speed performance.”

EE also questioned the validity of the tests, saying that independent benchmarking needs to be more comprehensive. A spokesperson for EE said: “Independent network benchmarking is important to help consumers understand which provider is best for them.

“But what’s more important is that benchmarking is comprehensive and accurate – with just 10,000 samples trying to cover four operators across the whole of the UK, this report is neither comprehensive nor accurate. We would welcome more detail of Netradar’s work and methodology so that results could be more meaningful and better explained.”

Vodafone called on the industry to find a standard test. A spokesperson for Vodafone said: “There have been numerous reports into UK network performance over the last few months, each of which shows different results as they are based on different criteria, from locations tested to devices used.

“We continue to call for a common industry approach to these reports to properly measure a consistent signal for voice, data and video in areas where customers need it, including indoors.”

Three welcomed the results, with chief technology officer Bryn Jones saying the market leading speeds showed how well its network is performing.

Jones said: “This is the latest in a number of tests which show how well our network is performing. With more investment and enhancement coming in 2015, the experience we offer customers will improve even further.”

“I’m pleased we’re performing well on speed but it is only one element of customer experience and we’ll continue to look across the network and the business to make sure customers are able to enjoy their devices.”