Three crowned best 5G network and EE is the fastest, according to new report

By Adrian Vincent - 31 Jan 2024, 17:24 Three crowned best 5G network and EE has the fastest median download speeds, according to new report

RootMetrics, a US based company which analyses mobile network performance, has released its bi-annual report for the UK networks, which measured performance during the second half of 2023.

The report crowned Three as the best 5G network, with the greatest 5G availability (57.6%) and joint fastest median download speeds (165.7 Mbps) with EE. However, EE was crowned overall best network for the 21st time in a row, and also achieved the fastest average median download speeds across all technologies (68.6 Mbps).

The report was generated from over 600,000 tests across the UK, made up of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All 4 major networks were tested, including EE, Three, Vodafone and O2.

As well as looking at the overall performance across the UK, separate tests were carried out for the UK’s 16 most populated cities.

Although RootMetrics did analyse 5G performance separately, their focus was primarily based on averages across 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G, given 5G on its own is relatively scarce and not ubiquitous, particularly outside of major cities.

EE ranked top for performance in all categories

RootMetrics analysed performance across 6 categories, including reliability, accessibility, speed, data, calls and texts. Interestingly, all 4 networks saw a slight decrease in points from the first half of 2023, but the final positions remained the same.

Although RootMetrics did not comment on why networks saw a drop in points, we assume this can be attributed to all networks making improvements in different categories, essentially redistributing points across the board.

EE ranked top for performance in all categories

Most impressively, EE came out on top for all 6 categories again, amassing 94.2 points overall. However, this is a slight decrease from the first half of 2023, where they gained a total of 95.9 points. Across all 4 UK nations, EE racked up all 28 first place awards - an increase of 3.

Vodafone kept its second place with 90.1 overall points, gaining second place for all categories, except texts, where they were joint first with EE. Vodafone also saw a slight decrease in points, where they achieved 92 from the first half of 2023. Vodafone managed to pick up 8 first place awards across all 4 UK nations - 1 more over the previous report.

Three also stood firmly in third place with 89.3 points, achieving third place for all categories, except speed and data, where they ranked joint second with Vodafone. This is also a slight decrease, where they amassed 90.2 points from the first half of 2023. Three only managed to pick up 2 first place awards across all 4 UK nations, however this is still better than 0 from the previous report.

And again in last place, O2 amassed 86.4 ponts, ranking bottom for all categories except texts, where they were joint third with Three. They did however see the smallest decrease, from 86.7 points in the first half of 2023. O2 only gained a single first place award across all 4 UK nations.

EE is still the fastest, O2 still the slowest despite biggest improvement

EE is the fastest UK network

EE again came in first place for median download speeds, achieving 68.6 Mbps. This is slightly over a 5% increase from the previous report, where they clocked in at 65.1 Mbps.

Vodafone moved up a spot to second place, achieving 34.5 Mbps median download speeds - a commendable 17% increase from the first half of 2023, where they achieved 29.4 Mbps.

Three were the only network to see a decrease in median down speeds, being knocked down a spot by Vodafone to third place, with 32.2 Mbps - a 7% decrease from the 34.7 Mbps reported in the first half of 2023.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, O2 again came in last place with median download speeds of 19.9 Mbps. However, they did see the largest increase at just over 28%, where they achieved 15.5 Mbps for the first half of 2023. Despite the improvement, they are still significantly slower compared to the 3 other major networks.

Network England Northern Ireland Scotland Wales Average
EE 68.6 Mbps 55.8 Mbps 76.5 Mbps 62.8 Mbps 68.6 Mbps
Three 32.1 Mbps 25.8 Mbps 35.7 Mbps 31.9 Mbps 32.2 Mbps
O2 20.4 Mbps 26 Mbps 15.9 Mbps 15 Mbps 19.9 Mbps
Vodafone 35.4 Mbps 33.8 Mbps 28.1 Mbps 30.8 Mbps 34.5 Mbps

Three awarded best 5G network

Three awarded best 5G network

For the first half of 2023, RootMetrics did not crown a provider for best 5G network, but did praise both Three and EE as top performers. However, in its latest report for the second half of 2023, RootMetrics were comfortable enough to award Three as the best overall 5G network.

Three ranked first at 57.6% for 5G availability. Although Three managed to achieve median download speeds of 165.7 Mbps, this is 5% slower compared to EE, who clocked in at 174.1 Mbps. However, at this level, the difference is basically negligible, with RootMetrics awarding both as champions for 5G download speeds.

Despite winning best 5G network, we did notice Three saw a decrease in median download speeds from the previous report, from 202 Mbps to 165.7 Mbps. Although still very fast, this is a fairly noticeable drop, and we’re puzzled as to what could have caused this. Even RootMetrics do not give an explanation. Perhaps more people are using 5G phones and devices with Three, resulting in an increase in demand and slower speeds. However, this still isn’t likely to account for the entire 18% drop on its own.

Three did, however, post an increase for maximum 5G speeds, from 813.6 Mbps to 853.4 Mbps.

Network Median 5G speeds Difference from 1H 2023
EE 174.1 Mbps +20.4%
Three 165.7 Mbps -18%
Vodafone 158.3 Mbps +20.38%
O2 68.7 Mbps -8.52%
Network Maximum 5G speeds Difference from 1H 2023
EE 638.5 Mbps +46.14%
Three 853.4 Mbps +4.89%
Vodafone 401.8 Mbps +10.11%
O2 301.2 Mbps +5.94%

Despite achieving third place for median 5G speeds, Vodafone were the only network to register median download speeds of at least 100 Mbps in the UK’s 16 most populated cities.

About the author Adrian Vincent

As the founder and senior editor at CompareDial, Adrian Vincent is a renowned expert in all things related to mobile phones, and is particularly knowledgeable when it comes to helping consumers find the best contract deals. His expertise is widely recognised, with citations from leading news organisations and tech publications. Adrian is dedicated to guiding users through the complexities of the phone contract market, ensuring they receive unparalleled advice and secure the best value for their money.