Ofcom's smart cities report is out; EE still at the top

Ofcom today released results of a new study conducted on mobile broadband and voice performance for the four major network operators in the UK, but Cable.co.uk wants you to take it with a pinch of salt.

Ofcom's study was conducted in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London and Norwich to capture 'real world' service quality levels for 4G networks.

The study included metrics like phone call success rates, video streaming quality as well as download, upload and web-browsing speeds and was conducted between November and December last year. As has been the case with Ofcom reports, EE topped on every parameter, followed closely behind by the other three.

Web-browsing speed

To measure web-browsing speeds, Ofcom tried to load the BBC homepage on each of these networks and it turned out that the homepage loaded in just five seconds on EE's network where it took six seconds to load on other networks.

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On the O2 network, the homepage failed to load completely in around 11 per cent of the total attempts. The failure rate was 9 per cent, 5 per cent and 2 per cent for Vodafone, Three and EE respectively.

Upload and download speeds

In terms of upload speeds, EE ruled once again by averaging 20 Mbps where Three averaged 12 Mbps and Vodafone and O2 shared the bottom spot with just 10 Mbps. While measuring download speeds, Ofcom's study found that EE was the fastest among  the four networks with an average download speed of 20 Mbps. The average download speed offered by Three, Vodafone and O2 were 15Mbps, 12Mbps and 10 Mbps respectively.

Video streaming

On EE's network, Ofcom researchers were able to stream Spectre, the James Bond film in high definition on YouTube with a success rate of 97 per cent. The success rate went down to 87 per cent on Three, 86% on Vodafone and 85% on O2.

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Call success rates

Success rates of calls made to landlines were excellent for all the networks. Call drop rates for these calls were 1 per cent on EE and 2 per cent on the other three networks.

Ofcom has also cautioned readers not to take the report for granted as "all operators carried out varying degrees of maintenance on their networks during our test period which may have impacted on their results." The regulator added that the tests were conducted in certain locations and were based on metrics that are easily recognisable to consumers .

However, Cable.co.uk has gone a step further and advised users that the Ofcom report should be taken with a pinch of salt and should not be considered as a basis for choosing a provider.

“Mobile customers should take these results with a pinch of salt. While it's no secret that EE presides over the UK's most expansive 4G network, it doesn't follow that its 4G service will be better for everyone, everywhere.

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 "Those looking to sign up with or switch to a new provider should check the coverage maps of all four of the UK's network providers (EE, Vodafone, Three and O2) and choose the provider with the best coverage in the locations where they spend most of their time," said Dan Howdle, telecoms expert at mobile, broadband and TV advice site Cable.co.uk.

However, EE wasted no time to bask under the results of the study which named it the winner on all five metrics.

“This is great news for our customers, who expect and deserve the best from their network. Ofcom recognises that EE's customers enjoy the best speeds and the most successful calls across the cities tested. Speed is important, not just for speed itself, but as a sign that a network has the capacity to provide a reliable service to its customers at the busiest times. We’re not stopping – we’re adding more capacity and coverage to keep delivering the UK’s best network experience. EE customers with the latest LTE-A  and 4G+ handsets will already be experiencing even greater speeds than those captured by this survey," said EE.

Want to check your operator's mobile phone coverage? Ofcom's online tool should help

In August last year, Ofcom released an online tool named Mobile Coverage Checker which used data from the big four operators, namely EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 to offer a consolidated summary of network coverage in any part of the country you wish to relocate to. Once you log in to the tool, just click anywhere on the map or enter a post code and you'll find the extent of coverage offered by each of these operators.

To make things simple, Ofcom has resorted to colour coding over areas, choosing green for the best coverage and red for the least likelihood of coverage. The tool will not restrict itself to mere signal strength, but will also show voice and data coverage, coverage inside and outside of buildings and areas where there are natural obstructions to coverage, such as valleys and hills.

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