UK 5G speeds are three times slower than in the US

Australian, South Korean and US networks all outpace UK network operators

The 5G network symbol on a smartphone UI

Average 5G download speeds in the UK are lagging behind services offered in South Korea, Australia and the US.

While EE 5G download speeds of 149.8Mbps exceed the 122.1Mbps registered on Vodafone’s network, these are still approximately three times slower than Verizon’s 506.1Mbps average download speeds, according to Opensignal research.

The next fastest network, after Verizon, is the South Korean network operator LG U+, which registered speeds of 238.7Mbps. EE and Vodafone ranked sixth and seventh among the ten networks assessed as part of the research.

The mobile analytics company examined next-gen networking technology in four leading countries, South Korea, Australia, the US and the UK, across ten operators that launched 5G services well over six months ago.

Verizon’s relatively exorbitant speeds can be explained by the fact it’s the only network of the ten to exclusively use mmWave spectrum. Similarly, the two slowest networks, US-based AT&T and T-Mobile have relied on low-band spectrum being repurposed from 4G services

All other operators, including the two UK-based networks tested, rely on mid-band spectrum for their 5G services. 

The differences in download speeds measured between them can be attributed to the amount of 5G spectrum available to deploy. Wider channels, for example, are better. There may also be other differences, however, such as the capacity of the onward connection from each cell site, or the performance of each operators’ core network.

Putting speed to one side, both EE and Vodafone also lag behind in terms of network availability, ranking seventh and ninth respectively of the ten assessed. While T-Mobile boasts 19.8% coverage across the US, EE’s 5G availability is a patchy 6.1%, a few points ahead of Vodafone’s 4.4% coverage.

“T-Mobile US users spent the most time connected to 5G globally, with a 5G availability of 19.8%, closely followed by all three South Korean operators with 5G availability ranging from 15.4% to 12.6%,” the report said. 

“South Korea continues to demonstrate not only tremendous 5G adoption, but a widely available and fast 5G experience. 

“4G continues to be important to users’ overall mobile experience because for now users have much higher availability on 4G, indicating that the mobile industry should look to accelerate 5G deployments so more people can enjoy the advantages of 5G more often.”

Three and O2, which have also launched 5G networks in the UK, were not included as part of the research.

IT Pro approached both EE and Vodafone to ask why UK 5G speeds are lagging behind those found in South Korea, Australia and the US.

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