How effective is 4G coverage in UK cities?

Published : Monday, July 30, 2018, 6:23 pm
ACROFAN=Jae-Yong Ryu | | SNS
Competitive network analytics vendor Teragence and telecom research and consultancy firm STL Partners are working together to explore how the data generated by Teragence's Crowdsource 2.0 methodology can be used to help guide telco strategy. The two companies plan to produce a set of charts on a regular basis, giving insights into mobile networks and their usage patterns.

The first of these charts depicts a new way of looking at 4G usage in metropolitan areas, and yields some surprising results. Looking at subscribers on the four main MNOs in the UK (Vodafone, EE/BT, O2 and Three) in Birmingham, Leeds and London, the chart compares the aggregate percentage of total connected time that was spent on 4G.

Unlike conventional statistics that show 4G coverage by numbers of subscribers reached, these figures are based on the length of time that real users spend connected to 4G while they are within these metropolitan areas.

The 'time on technology' analysis for STL Partners was conducted during the first half of 2018, by calculating the percentage of 4G measurements in the total measurement pool in a given city, regardless of the location of those measurements. This means that if, for example, two measurements occurred in the same location, they were treated as two discrete measurements, not a single one.

This metric differs from a geographic coverage percentage as it aligns more to where people spend their time, rather than where they might just pass through.

Across all three cities, the time spent by Vodafone and EE users on 4G was almost equal, while O2 and Three usage lagged somewhat behind. However, for all four networks the figure was proportionately lower in London than in either Leeds or Birmingham. As intuitively contradictory as this may sound, it does make sense: London probably has near to 100% 4G geographic coverage (i.e. 4G is available in virtually every location), but at the same time the high demand for mobile bandwidth is forcing a significant portion of users to fall back onto 3G capacity. In fact, the Teragence analysis shows that for all operators, prevalence of 3G connectivity is highest in the centre of London, rather than the suburbs.

This ties in with a recent report on fixed broadband speeds (, which highlights that, while high-speed broadband infrastructure is fairly ubiquitous in areas such as London, the actual service is pretty dismal, driven by the high level of demand that is continuously competing for the available bandwdidth.

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