EE still leads 4G race but rivals are closing the gap


RootMetrics conducts first-ever report looking specifically at 4G services, taking a number of measures from the UK’s most populated cities

Mobile operators have made impressive progress building a 4G footprint across the UK and while EE still leads the way in most measures, upgrades from its rivals are starting to see them close the gap.

This is according to the first-ever looking specifically at 4G services from RootMetrics. Tests were conducted during the second half of last year, with the four major networks tested side-by-side in the 16 populous metros, covering 50 per cent of the UK population.

The cities covered were: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield.

When looking at results across all markets, EE had a median 4G footprint rate of 79.3 per cent. RootMetrics said it was important to keep in mind that this UK-wide footprint rate doesn’t necessarily mean that a consumer has a 79.3 per cent chance of accessing 4G everywhere – rates vary between individual markets, with some metros having more 4G available than others.

Elsewhere, Vodafone offered a median 4G footprint across all markets of 58.2 per cent, with O2 at 52.7 per cent and Three at 24.8 per cent.

EE offered 4G in all 16 markets tested, including a 92.9 per cent footprint in Belfast. O2 and Vodafone each offered 4G in 13 of the markets tested, with 4G footprint rates never exceeding 72 per cent in any market. Three offered 4G in 14 markets but often recorded smaller 4G footprints, with coverage rates never exceeding 44 per cent in any market.

The report found that EE remains ahead of its rivals on maximum download speeds, recording its best in Belfast with 94.1Mbps. O2 recorded its fastest maximum download speed of 64.7Mbps in London. Vodafone’s fastest was 64.5Mbps in both Belfast and London while Three’s was 50Mbps in Sheffield.

RootMetrics said that although maximum speeds show a network’s full potential, median speeds are more impactful on everyday activity, and that the speeds that were found offer consumers an entirely different experience than when not on 4G.


EE recorded median speeds above 20Mbps in 12 markets, while Vodafone achieved this in three and O2 in two. EE biggest median download speed was 32.1Mbps in Belfast, with both O2 and Vodafone recording theirs in Nottingham at 22.2Mbps and 21.7Mbps respectively.RootMetrics said the download speeds from the latter two were “impressive” and noted they could be closing the gap on EE.

When 4G is not available, Three performed well and recorded its fastest median download speed of 7.3Mbps in Belfast. In comparison, EE fastest when not on 4G was 4.9Mbps in Glasgow, )2’s was 2.6Mbps in Liverpool and Vodafone’s was 3.1Mbps in Manchester.

RootMetrics CEO and president Bill Moore said: “2014 was the first year in the UK when all the major networks were providing 4G services, and it appears each has had its success in deploying services across the country.

“We have seen some startlingly fast speeds in pockets of the UK and overall median speeds are substantially higher than 3G. What is even more encouraging is the reliability of services once customers are on 4G. The growing footprint of each network means as more customers are able to access 4G, they will be able to consistently access all the benefits 4G brings.”


  1. masking the real problem by being the leader.

    FYI parts of London have no signal for 3 days now on EE. When I called them, they passed the blame onto my previous network because my number originated from them…. like last year!

    I checked my previous network and no one had the problem. But checked on EE, and there was more of us!