Regardless of the current political wrangling about Brexit, one thing is certain about the UK’s place in Europe.
Whatever happens, our European neighbours will continue to provide the nearest – and most relevant – benchmarks for judging our broadband and mobile data services.
A survey published before Christmas measured mobile network performance across the continent, using a consumer smartphone app.
While infrastructure and consumer behaviour clearly vary from one nation to the next, it’s still reasonable to compare 4G speeds – making RFBenchmark’s results highly instructive.
When 3G and 4G speeds were combined, RFBenchmark’s analysis revealed an average mobile broadband download speed of 17.7Mbps.
This represents a modest rise of 0.8Mbps over the comparable figure in 2017.
Upload speeds increased more markedly during 2018, rising by 1.18Mbps to hit an average of 9.03Mbps.
At the same time, latency (the delay between a request being sent from a device and a response being received) dropped substantially, from 101ms to 77ms.
Latency doesn’t just affect how quickly webpages are displayed. It impacts upon every online activity, having a particularly detrimental effect in terms of online gameplay.
It may come as a surprise to learn 4G speeds are fairly consistent across Europe.
Only two countries had speeds below 10Mbps – Ukraine (5.64) and Macedonia (8.2).
Equally, only two nations recorded figures in excess of 20Mbps – France (20.8) and Austria (20.4).
A few came close; Portugal’s 19.7Mbps figure was narrowly ahead of both Poland and Italy, where 18.9Mbps was recorded.
The UK achieved a mid-table finish, beaten by France and Germany but finishing ahead of Denmark, Spain and Belgium.
Our 17.7Mbps average was identical to the Netherlands, and way ahead of the Republic of Ireland. They were joint-third slowest, tied with Belarus on an unimpressive 10.1Mbps.
The UK’s upload speed of 9.03Mbps was more remarkable, since even the fastest nations only just broke the 10Mbps threshold.
Spare a thought for residents of Macedonia and Montenegro, who endured upload speeds of just 2.3 and 2.8Mbps respectively during 2018.
Is it fair to compare?
Obviously, every nation has unique geographic issues to contend with. Norway’s population is scattered, Russia’s land mass is enormous and Switzerland is highly mountainous.
Different countries have varying levels of market competition, pushing up standards. Richer nations with higher proportions of modern handsets also have an advantage in these figures.
Even so, RFBenchmark’s data offers a fascinating insight into the UK’s 3G/4G network performance compared with other nations.
These results mirror a separate (global) survey published last autumn by OpenSignal.
Its results also indicated the UK’s mobile broadband download speeds lagged behind France and Germany, while outperforming most other nations around the world.
It remains to be seen whether domestic mobile network operators can improve their infrastructure enough to boost the UK’s upload/download/latency results for 2019.