It’s often said that travel broadens the mind, and that’s especially true of smartphone networks.
If you’ve never ventured beyond these shores, you might assume Three and EE are household names around the world.
Of course, you’d be wrong.
Mobile network advertising is often one of the first things greeting new arrivals in foreign airports – unfamiliar names like Etisalat and Du in the UAE, Orange and Movistar in Spain, etc.
Some of these networks seem familiar. For instance, Orange branding was a common sight in the UK until it merged with One2One, and promptly rebranded as T-Mobile.
However, network performance could vary radically from one country to the next, even where familiar names like Vodafone are concerned.
In fact, our phone networks don’t compare especially well to our continental cousins or our Commonwealth compatriots…
Not performing at our best
Mobile network performance in the UK was recently rated as the world’s 36th best, in a global mobile experience report published by data analysis firm Tutela.
Between May and August, Tutela calculated two different measurements (ECQ and CCQ) from the results of 170 million speed tests conducted by 60 million devices in 167 countries.
These measurements analysed the performance of a network during activities from voice calls to video streaming, considering everything from download speeds to latency.
The ECQ measurement covers demanding activities like HD video streaming, while the CCQ figure determines whether a network can support web browsing, emailing and VoIP calls.
The UK’s average ECQ and CCQ figures were 73.6 and 95.5 per cent respectively, placing us 36th in a global league table of national networks.
That was better than the USA and Ireland’s performance, though it lagged far behind Canada and the Czech Republic.
Our ECQ and CCQ figures were both beaten by small islands (Malta, Iceland), Caribbean nations (Bermuda, Barbados) and Eastern Bloc countries (Bulgaria, Serbia).
At the top of the table, Japan recorded the best ECQ figure, while Norway came top for CCQ.
At the bottom, three countries didn’t host mobile networks fast enough to support HD streaming or gaming – the central African nations of Niger, Chad and Liberia.
Indeed, Afghanistan was the only non-African nation in the bottom 20.
Will our performance improve?
Being outperformed by Andorra, Slovakia and New Zealand doesn’t provide a ringing endorsement of mobile network performance in the UK.
And while the methodology is arguably less exact than using dedicated apps, this crowdsourced data still provides a clear indication of how far our networks need to improve.
The forthcoming 5G rollout should help, as will ongoing investment in 4G technology.
A proposed collaboration between the UK’s big four networks to cover most of the country’s notspots may also elevate us up future league tables.
For now, we simply have to accept mobile network performance in the UK lags well behind other developed nations.