Ookla posts analysis of UK 5G performance in H1 2021

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An Ookla analysis covering H1 2021 has found that 5G networks in the UK are getting faster and boosting consumer sentiment.

Early in the deployment of any new mobile network generation, it’s not clear to the wider public of the benefits. This is especially true as go-to metrics like download speeds aren’t initially as pronounced as often expected. However, those same people now share the sense of dread even when dropping from 4G to 3G.

Out of the gate, 5G speeds were often not that much faster than 4G. In fact, they were even slower in some cases. Combining that lack of early performance with the debunked conspiracy theories about health hazards – including that 5G caused COVID-19 – and it’s no surprise that public sentiment around 5G is low.

Now that 5G speeds and availability is increasing across the UK, sentiment is improving alongside.

With a median 5G download speed of 167.38 Mbps, the UK is ahead of its leading trading partners in Europe, Japan, and the US. However, it falls behind category leaders South Korea and China.

The US jumps into the lead when it comes to 5G availability with a result of 49.5 percent. This is followed by an impressive showing from the Netherlands with 44 percent. South Korea rounds out the top three with 40.4 percent availability.

In Europe, the UK’s 10.2 percent 5G availability is just pipped by Spain’s 10.3 percent.

Ookla notes how 5G is finally helping the UK break a two-year stagnation in mobile download speeds.

The Speedtest owners logged a median download speed of 21.44 Mbps in H1 2019. Speeds remained stagnant until the 5G rollout began ramping up in H2 2020 when median speeds reached 23.60 Mbps. In H1 2021, this increased more substantially to 29.96 Mbps and shows little sign of slowing.

Ookla puts the large H1 2021 increase down to a “giant” surge in consumers switching to 5G devices and plans. According to Speedtest Intelligence, almost 70,000 more consumers performed a speed test over 5G in Q1-Q2 2021 than in Q3-Q4 2020.

“5G is inherently faster, which boosts median download speeds and we suspect speeds will continue to improve as network operators continue to build out their 5G networks to reach more and more customers,” wrote Ookla in their analysis.

Three, the UK’s smallest mobile operator by subscribers, looks to be benefiting from having the most contiguous 5G spectrum. It’s due to its enviable spectrum holdings that Three has controversially claimed in marketing materials to be the only UK operator to offer “real 5G”.

According to Ookla’s analysis, Three has – by some margin – the fastest median 5G download speed at 231.07 Mbps. However, it ranks third of the UK’s four operators for availability with just 6.4 percent.

The UK’s largest mobile operator, EE, has the highest 5G availability at 17.9 percent but ranks last for median download speed at 151.03 Mbps.

EE announced today that it’s launching an “enhanced 5G service” from October which should help the operator climb up the rankings for download speeds. The improved service will launch in Redditch, Morecambe, and Cramlington initially and uses the 700MHz 5G spectrum that EE acquired through regulator Ofcom’s auction in March.

Customers on 5G plans are showing more satisfaction with their operator than those on 4G:

Somewhat damningly for rivals, EE was the only operator to achieve a net positive sentiment for “all tech”. However, all of the operators achieved a positive sentiment for 5G which paints a rosier picture for the future as the rollout continues.

(Image Credit: Ookla)

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