Like many other aspects of modern life, mobile broadband speeds are often a postcode lottery.
The inconsistent rollout of 5G services has left 4G carrying a heavy burden, and the lack of an urban equivalent to the Shared Rural Network means results vary even across compact city centres.
This is something mobile benchmarking company RootMetrics has been focusing on for several years.
Twice a year, they send a team of testers around the UK’s biggest cities armed with identical hardware – in this case, Samsung Note 10+ 5G-capable smartphones.
Testers carried out identical analysis of different networks to directly compare high-speed mobile broadband in the UK’s sixteen biggest cities – and its four biggest mobile networks.
The results from the latest national RootMetrics survey (conducted in the second half of last year) have recently been analysed, revealing some surprising results.
And the winner is…
You might not expect Liverpool to be at the cutting edge of high-speed mobile broadband, but of the UK’s sixteen most populous cities, it ranked highest for download performance.
While Vodafone customers in Liverpool can typically expect data to arrive at 73.5Mbps, the aggregated median download speed across the city was 43.6Mbps.
Residents of London will naturally be disappointed to see the capital in sixth place, with a median download speed of just 33.3Mbps.
That’s worse than Leicester and Nottingham, which averaged 36.4 and 35.5Mbps respectively.
Liverpool took first place in the speed tests, but podium finishes were also claimed by Birmingham and Hull, attaining speeds of 40.2 and 37.7Mbps.
It’s worth noting Birmingham is especially favourable for EE customers, with RootMetrics recording an average speed of 79.5Mbps.
That’s only slightly slower than Three’s 5G speeds of 94.1Mbps in the Second City, typifying the absence of a compelling case for 5G handsets (or contracts) at present.
Bottom of the class
The combined West Yorkshire conurbation of Leeds and Bradford propped up the RootMetrics table, recording an aggregate media download speed of just 22Mbps.
Sheffield also performed poorly, occupying second-last place with a speed of 25.9Mbps – a fraction slower than Newcastle and Coventry at 26.0 and 26.2Mbps respectively.
Given the extensive telecommunications investment across Northern Ireland in recent years, Belfast’s figure of 27.5Mbps was especially disappointing.
Indeed, capitals cities underwhelmed across the board. Edinburgh’s median of 28Mbps was significantly below Glasgow’s score of 30.8, while Cardiff managed a modest 31.8Mbps.
Are these figures improving?
Compared to the equivalent RootMetrics survey in the second half of 2019, speeds have undoubtedly improved.
The roll-out of 5G saw Liverpool’s median download speeds increase from 28.8Mbps to 43.6, while Birmingham’s rose from 28.9 to 40.2Mbps.
Other cities saw far less improvement. Leeds and Bradford gained just 1.3Mbps on average, and Coventry’s speeds rose from 25.3 to 26.2Mbps – an increase too small to notice in normal daily use.
While any improvement should be welcomed, there’s a long way to go before cities like Bristol and Manchester consistently deliver high-speed mobile broadband worthy of the name.