Three 4G falling to Vodafone and O2

Three 4G only available 50% of the time

Three 4G coverage is falling compared to rivals Vodafone and O2, according to a new study of 30,000 customers by crowdsourcers OpenSignal.

Berkshire-based Three were the first to launch 3G back in 2003, making them the country’s first widely available internet-enabled mobile network, way ahead of the likes of BT and Vodafone.

And OpenSignal say Three customers still get the fastest 3G at an average of 6.5Mbps.

But despite heavy investment in fourth-generation 4G technology, Three is losing out to its nearest competitors.

Our 4G availability award goes to EE as our testers were able to tap its LTE network 72.4% of the time.

O2 and Vodafone also enjoyed big boosts in the availability category. Six months ago our users were only able to get an LTE signal on either operator in roughly six out of every 10 attempts.

In our latest tests, though, O2 had a 4G availability score of 69%, while Vodafone's metric was 67.7%. Three came in last place in our availability rankings as our testers on its 4G service were only able to find an LTE connection half the time, but its score improved by 6 percentage points in six months.

- Opensignal, State of Mobile Networks UK (April 2017)

Users could only access the Three 4G service less than half the times they tried.

The report took 500,000,000 data points from 30,793 people using OpenSignal’s apps.

The company says these measurements are taken wherever people happen to be, both indoors and out, in the countryside or in the city. As such it’s a good respresentation of mobile data how it’s actually used, outside of raw facts and figures.

Now EE is offering 4G mobile speeds of over 60Mbps.

In fact, no-one can come close to BT-owned EE, which topped all the categories for fastest and most reliable internet and calls in this 2017 Rootmetrics report.

According to the study, Three 4G scores better than Vodafone and O2 for download and latency speeds, but it is now available less of the time.

More: What is latency and how does it kill fast internet?

Low latency means more repsonsive apps and web browsing, and video and voice calls will experience less lag time over low-latency links than over high-latency ones.

And despite UK networks hitting 4G availability of just 58% in November 2016, now everyone but Three has improved this, making fast internet an option for smartphone users right across the country.


Tom is a tech journalist and Editor at
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