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Three trails market in UK 4G Rootmetrics report card

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Three has come out bottom of the pile in a new report looking at the performance of 4G networks in the United Kingdom.

RootMetrics' study, which is the first from the company to look specifically at the UK’s 4G services, found that the Hutchison-owned operator scored lowest in terms of both speed and coverage during a test carried out last year. EE emerged victorious across all tests.

Meanwhile, “impressive” progress from O2 and Vodafone saw the gap between the two operators narrowing in terms of network quality. Announcing its most recent financial results today, Vodafone claimed its 4G service now extends to over 70 percent of its footprint in Europe after stepping up investments in 2014.

Rootmetric’s study was conducted during the second half of 2014, with EE, O2, Vodafone and Three tested side-by-side in 16 metro areas covering 50% of the UK population.

EE scored the highest median coverage rate of 79.3 percent across all markets. 

Vodafone came second, with a rate of 58.2 percent. This was followed by O2 at 52.7 percent, and Three, who scored a median 4G footprint rate of 24.8 percent.

EE also came out on top in terms of coverage in individual markets, scoring a median coverage rate of 92.9 percent in Belfast and offering its 4G service in all 16 markets tested by Rootmetrics.

O2 and Vodafone’s 4G networks were found to be available in 13 markets, with each scoring a median footprint rate of 72 percent.

While Three offered 4G in 14 markets, rates of coverage were significantly lower at 44 percent.

When it came to maximum speeds, Rootmetrics recorded download rates of 94.1 Mbps on EE’s network. O2 and Vodafone performed similarly, coming in at 64.7MBps and 64.5MBps respectively.

Three’s peak download rates proved to be lowest at 50MBps. Rootmetrics did not give any reason as to why Three's network performance had scored so low.

Rootmetrics also tested median speeds, which it said were “more impactful on everyday activities.”

EE recorded median speeds above 20 Mbps in 12 of 16 markets. O2 and Vodafone also recorded “impressive” median download speeds, while Three’s median 4G speeds “trailed” those of the other MNOs.

Despite this, Three saw the highest median download rate when not connected to a 4G network. It also came in second place in terms of overall network performance in a Rootmetrics study in February.

Additionally, Rootmetrics found that when a 4G service was available, success rates for making a connection and then staying connected to the network frequently neared 100% for all operators. 

Bill Moore, CEO and President of Rootmetrics, said: “2014 was the first year in the UK when all the major networks were providing 4G services, and it appears each has had its success in deploying services across the country.

“We have seen some startlingly fast speeds in pockets of the UK and overall median speeds are substantially higher than 3G. What is even more encouraging is the reliability of services once customers are on 4G. The growing footprint of each network means as more customers are able to access 4G, they will be able to consistently access all the benefits 4G brings.”

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