Mythbusting: Will the Shutdown of 3G Cause Digital Poverty?

 Have you seen the recent news reports about the withdrawal of 3G by Mobile Network Operators – And how this move will result in ‘millions of people’ being plunged into ‘digital poverty’ by disconnecting them from the internet?

Much of this reporting goes unchallenged and could be seen as scaremongering – Will the consequences of withdrawing the 3G service actually be this dire? 

How much is 3G actually still used? 

3G is actually rather old by tech standards. We’ve had 2 further generations of mobile technology since 3G (4G and 5G, obviously). And 6G isn’t far behind them. 

Can you believe that Vodafone has been using their 3G service for 18 years? What else in the world of technology is around for so long! Vodafone also happens to be the first MNO to start the 3G withdrawal process. 3G data traffic on their network accounted for just 4% in January 2022. In 2016 it was over 30%. 

Did you know that 4G is available to over 99% of the UK’s population whilst they are outdoors? Unfortunately this does fall to between 80 and 87% for geographic coverage. Although, if we’re comparing, 2G only covers 85-93%. We use 2G for basic data like voice and text services. 

When will we lose 3G and 2G services? 

The government, along with all the major mobile network operators, have agreed that by 2033, 2G and 3G signals will be phased out. 

You might be wondering why 3G is being withdrawn first when 2G is obviously older. Well, there are less devices in operation that are critically dependent on 3G services. 4G has been more successful, mainly due to 3G being negatively affected by overpriced spectrum licensing.

2G, on the other hand, is still widely used for basic voice services and limited data for mobiles, as well as other applications like Smart Metres in home energy monitoring systems and similar solutions making it a great low-power fallback option. Therefore, 2G will be around for much longer than 3G. 

The gradual withdrawal of 3G services will differ slightly by mobile network operator. You can find out more information on your mobile operator’s plans to phase out 3G below:

  • Vodafone UK began the withdrawal of 3G at the start of this year and aims to have phased it out by December.
  • Three UK are phasing out their 3G network service gradually over the next 2 years, with it being switched off by the end of 2024.
  • EE are starting their 3G withdrawal by first moving customers off 3G, with a view to switching the 3G network off early next year. 
  • O2 are yet to publicly announce anything but are part of the plans to switch off both 2G and 3G by 2033 and are likely to follow a similar timeline as those above. 

Is the phasing out of 3G a good thing or a bad thing? 

The recent news reports we alluded to earlier would suggest that the withdrawal of 3G services would disconnect a lot of people from the internet and result in digital poverty for millions. But is the phasing out of 3G really a negative thing, like these reports suggest?

Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the worries surrounding the 3G switch off, and hopefully alleviate them.

‘My 4G signal is weak – Will I be unable to access mobile data?’

We can totally see why this would be a worry. If you find that your 4G signal coverage is weak in your area and your handset often falls back to 3G, it makes sense that you would be concerned that you would be disconnected from mobile data altogether once 3G is switched off. Especially if your fixed line broadband was also poor locally. 

What you need to bear in mind is that when the 3G service is switched off, the spectrum that would have been used for that will then be used for 4G and 5G services instead. This means that those who often find their weak 4G signal defaults to 3G, would see an improvement in 4G signal once 3G has been phased out. Happily, this also means that mobile broadband speeds would also improve.  

Of course, this does depend somewhat on the operator itself and their approach in your area. There is a chance that some people could have issues if their operator wasn’t to prepare the updated coverage after 3G is phased out. Let’s remember that that’s not in the best interests of the operator either, and all MNO’s are committed to minimising any problems caused by the withdrawal of 3G services. 

Don’t forget that a weak 4G signal can actually still be better than a strong 3G signal. The data capability available to you isn’t always accurately depicted by how many signal bars you see on your screen. 

It’s also worth noting that current plans for mobile connectivity mean that coverage and performance are only going to improve. The Shared Rural Network, an industry led project worth £1 billion, is working hard to bring 4G to 95% of the UK in geographic coverage by the end of 2025.  

What do the operators themselves have to say about the potential problem of weak 4G signal? 

It would seem that UK mobile network operators are prepared for the phasing out of 3G and the subsequent effects on 4G signal. 

Vodafone says:

“By repurposing the 3G network – we can grow the UK-wide reach of our more energy efficient 4G and 5G networks instead – this means faster data speeds, higher quality voice call services and a chance to continue improving connectivity in previously ‘cut-off’ areas, including rural communities and the London Underground.”

  • They will be optimising their 4G and 5G networks as a part of their phasing out of 3G. In fact, some of their 3G spectrum has already been re-directed as a part of this plan. 
  • They have also contacted customers of theirs who could be impacted by issues once 3G has been switched off. So no news is probably good news! 

Three says:

 “Retiring 3G enables us to repurpose network assets where our customers need them (4G&5G) … this plan has been carefully developed by our network teams to ensure that it benefits our customers.”

  • A tiny 3% of their network traffic was 3G so they expect minimal disruption
  • They believe their customers can expect “faster downloads, better quality streaming and a more reliable experience” when 3G is switched-off.
  • Ahead of the 3G switch off, Three are upgrading many of their legacy 3G sites and repurposing them for newer technologies.
  • They suggest that customers who have a 4G / 5G compatible handset will not be impacted by the phasing out of 3G. 

EE says:

  • Whilst the re-farming of 3G will be a process that takes time, the spectrum used for 3G is planned to be used for 4G and 5G, just not immediately. The locations that have the highest need (those that are congested or at risk of congestion) will be the initial focus for the reuse of 3G spectrum.
  • This operator is focusing on making sure that their 4G has enough capacity to cope once 3G has been switched off. In areas where they have both a 3G and 4G service, the 3G doesn’t generally reach beyond that of their 4G services. They believe they have the tools to identify if any work is needed on spectrum and in what areas so that they can be prioritised.
  • They are currently refreshing their 4G and 5G network and replacing some 5G vendor equipment. They need to finish this network refresh before they can re-farm the 3G spectrum. Once the work has been completed, it will be easier to use the remaining 5MHz from the 3G spectrum. Upgrades will be a mix of remote and site visits depending on configuration. Only modernised sites will be able to re-farm the 3G spectrum to be used for 4G and 5G, hence why the process will take some time. 

O2 says:

Not a lot… Yet! As we said above, O2 haven’t publicly announced their plans to phase out 3G services like the other operators have so it’s all a bit quiet from the O2 camp. 

‘I have an old device that doesn’t have 4G capabilities – How will I get online when 3G is phased out?’

The DPA (Digital Poverty Alliance) is concerned that people with older, more basic devices that don’t have 4G capabilities will fall into ‘digital poverty’ once 3G is phased out if they rely on that device to get online. 

But is this a legitimate concern? Here are some reasons why this may be an unfounded worry. 

  • There are basic phones that have 4G capabilities that have been available on the market for a number of years. They are generally lower cost than more elaborate devices, at around £20-£50 for the handset.
  • Operators often offer bundles with cheap plans and almost free handsets on the more basic models
  • Some operators and charities give more vulnerable users basic handsets for free, so they only need to pay for the tariff

That being said, we realise that there will be people out there that may currently have a device that doesn’t support 4G. There are options out there so anyone who is worried have a shop around – A basic 4G compatible handset and monthly plan for less than £10 a month are out there. 

The best option if you are concerned is probably to ring your current operator and see what they can offer you. 

How Can You Make Sure You’re Not Affected by the 3G Switch Off? 

We’re not saying that nobody will be affected by the phasing out of 3G services. There are always going to be the odd few where unique cases mean that something goes awry. Let’s bear in mind that some handsets will have better reception than others! 

We’re feeling hopeful that the operators will have planned the 3G withdrawal properly and will minimise the impact on their customers. I guess we’ll find out! 

Saying that, here are a few things you can look out for to try and minimise any disruption to your coverage and connections:

  • Ensure your current handset (or any new one you buy) has VoLTE (Voice-over-LTE) capability. Not all 4G handsets can make calls over the same generation of network technology, but if your handset supports the above it will be helpful.
  • Choose a handset that supports Wi-Fi Calling. Whilst not as common on the more basic handsets, if you have a home broadband connection then this would come in very handy.
  • Anyone with a 4G handset having issues after the 3G switch off should perhaps consider changing mobile operator and see if that fixes the problem. Each operator will have different coverage, varying by site, so it might be worth switching around. This also goes for the above – If you have a VoLTE or Wi-Fi Calling enabled handset but are having issues, it could be the operator.
  • Remember that when making calls and texts, 3G/4G handsets will fall back to 2G if having trouble anyway. 

Despite the sensationalised articles about the phasing out of 3G services in headline news, try not to worry. We deal with technological advances all the time in this modern world. You could choose to see the withdrawal of 3G as an upgrade to 4G/5G instead of a negative.

There may well be teething problems for a small percentage of mobile users, but we’re pretty sure that mobile operators will find a solution that works for all when the time comes to switch off 3G services. 

What is the ‘Fibre in Water’ Trial and Will Fibre Broadband Run Through Water Mains?

For the past year, the DSIT have been trialling ‘Fibre in Water’ in Yorkshire. Fibre has been run along 17km between Barnsley and Penistone to see whether fibre optic (FTTP) broadband cables could be deployed through live water mains. 

The £6.2m trial has just completed its first phase, with the DSIT releasing current progress and what they’ve learned so far, with one year left to go of the trial. 

The theory behind the ‘fibre in water’ trial is that fibre broadband could reach 8,500 more rural homes and businesses without needing to do disruptive and costly street works. Not only that, the fibre could provide capacity to local 5G mobile masts as well as monitor any leakages on the network. 

What is ‘Fibre in Water’?

The main concept behind ‘Fibre in Water’ is to deploy fibre optic cables through live drinking water mains, monitoring them for leakage. It would also mean that broadband companies could use the water network to deliver gigabit connections to any homes and businesses along the water route that the cables were deployed in. 

If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to be putting fibre-optic cables alongside water, then don’t worry! The fibre cables will be inside ‘messenger pipes’ to make sure that they don’t touch the water and are protected. 

The messenger pipe is deployed whilst water is in normal operation so that the pressure can be used to deploy an initial draw line. The installation is completed by blowing the fibre-optic cable into the messenger pipe. 

What do they hope to achieve with the ‘Fibre in Water’ project?

The £6.2m project began in 2021 and is expected to reach completion in 2024 – Taking it from a pilot schemed to facilitate delivery. The aim is to deliver advanced broadband and mobile services to rural locations via mains water. 

Led by the DSIT (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology), the project is also supported by Defra (Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs) as well as the Geospatial Commission. 

There are various objectives to the ‘Fibre to Water’ project, a few of these are:

  • To support the Project Gigabit and Shared Rural Network schemes by connecting the hardest to reach areas of the UK with advanced fixed and mobile services (such as gigabit, 4G and 5G)
  • To reduce the amount of clean water leakage from the water mains (approximately 3 billion litres of clean water is lost per day)
  • To support the digital transformation of the water industry in the UK

What are the challenges of the ‘Fibre to Water’ project?

This project sees the merging of two separate industries, so is of course going to meet its challenges. 

It’s a complex endeavour to safely bring together fibre-optic cables and water pipes in one place. Hence why DSIT, Defra and Geospatial Commission are all involved. Not only does it have to meet regulatory frameworks but also has to reflect a sensible cost for all bodies. 

Project TAWCO was formed – Telecoms and Water Combined Operations – Consisting of Yorkshire Water, Commsworld (telecoms operator), the University of Strathclyde as a research organisation and Arcadis as a Design and Engineering Consultancy. 

They proposed a route that would enable them to put the operational and commercial models to the test – Going from Barnsley to Penistoke. 

What does the ‘Fibre in Water’ project consist of? 

The project is split into 3 phases, the first of which has just reached completion. 

Phase 1

This phase has focused on the research and investigation elements to inform later deployment. It had to look at the technical, commercial, legal and maintenance aspects of everything – as well as the benefits – before being able to present findings to the government. Only then can it move into Phase 2 and 3. 

Phase 2

The second phase will look at the design and build elements of the project, including deployment of the final design. It will also include data collection and the accrual of benefits. 

Phase 3

The final phase will evaluate how the project has performed and how it can be scaled up in line with the analysis results from Phase 2, with a view of rolling out this solution on a national scale. 

What has been learnt from the 1st phase of the ‘Fibre in Water’ project?

Now that the first phase is coming to a close, the project has shown that this is a successful model, commercially viable, between the two industries. 

It would seem that there is an investment opportunity for fibre in water, with a host of benefits for not only the industries but customers too. 

European markets are seeing expansion in this area, with a rise in fibre in water technology and monitoring software solutions. More suppliers here in the UK are looking to gain approval for their offerings. As with all industries, competition in this area will drive innovation and technical improvements further as well as keep prices down.

The telecoms market is a competitive one, so Fibre in Water is likely to be another way for these companies to get broadband services to homes and businesses and provide better options for consumers. 

One issue highlighted by the Phase 1 survey was having to gain access to private landowners along the proposed route. Not only would this be a potential risk, it would also cost money due to compensation negotiations. 

A way to avoid this was to alter the route for the trial, reducing it to 8km of ‘fibre in water’ and avoiding the need for private access. Whilst this mitigated the risk and cost, it also means that the number of rural premises being reached is less, down to 7000. 

Will the proposed ‘fibre in water’ trial go ahead? It’s expected that a decision will be made imminently by the DSIT and other government partners alongside Project TAWCO. 

Could this be an exciting development in getting reliable broadband to rural areas? We might well find out next month – Watch this space. 

Rural Wi-Fi Options with Geekabit

In the meantime, if you’re struggling with your broadband in a rural home or business then get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today. We have extensive experience with 4G and Mobile Broadband – Bringing you a more reliable connection in rural premises. Read more on our website and get in touch today.

UK Smartphone Users: Are you Satisfied with 5G Mobile Performance?

UK market research provider OnePoll have recently released new survey data suggesting that 80% of smartphone users who use 5G to get online on their mobile are satisfied with the performance. 

80% of surveyed smartphone users satisfied with 5G mobile service

Commissioned by Green Smartphones (a smartphone comparison website), the poll surveyed 1000 UK based adults who use 5G mobile internet on their smartphone. 80% of the respondents reported being satisfied with both the coverage and the broadband speeds via 5G. 

The other 20% of respondents were split between being dissatisfied (8%) and undecided (12%). 

Over 50% say 5G mobile service meets expectations

The poll also asked the selected UK smartphone users whether the 5G they use on their mobile is faster or slower than they expected.

From those surveyed:

  • 53% said 5G mobile speeds were what they expected
  • 21% said it was faster than they expected
  • 12% said it was much faster than their expectations
  • Another 12% said it was slower than they expected
  • The remaining 2% said it was much slower than they expected

Can 5G live up to the hype? 

Recent news outlets have reported disappointment in the rollout of 5G, criticising the 5G mobile services that are available. 

The survey outlined above from OnePoll would suggest different, with the majority of their respondents reporting satisfaction with their 5G mobile service performance. Only a small percentage of those surveyed reported slower than expected 5G mobile speeds. 

As with most things tech, there is always a buzz and excessive hype with the rollout of anything new. Just like 4G and 3G technology before it, 5G services have been hyped up and over-sold with bit expectations for positive impact on mobile performance. 

Has 5G made fixed line broadband obsolete? No. Are we seeing a 5G-powered driverless car revolution on our roads? No, not that either. 

What we are seeing is an upgrade in mobile capability which is useful and appreciated by both businesses and consumers – Once it’s available to them. 

5G wireless network technology

Let’s not forget that 5G technology still has room to grow so further future improvements are likely. 

The expectation is that 5G broadband speed and network coverage will continue to grow and improve over the coming years. 

And, as is the world of tech, once we’ve welcomed and embraced 5G will open arms, attention will turn to 6G and the wild assertions of the benefits it will bring with it. 

Get in Touch

If you own a rural business and are struggling with broadband connectivity then get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today. 

Our professional engineers in Hampshire can advise whether mobile broadband could help keep your business connected.

Small Rural UK Businesses Damaged by Unreliable Broadband

The Federation of Small Businesses recently published a report highlighting how rural businesses are struggling with the ‘cost of doing business crisis.’ Not only are these rural businesses facing growing energy costs and problematic transport links, but they are also being hit with unreliable broadband. 

Could your business function without reliable broadband? 

Think of all the ways your business, whatever the industry, depends on a strong internet connection. How much disruption would unreliable broadband cause to your business? Effective internet access has become as vital as other utilities to businesses and homes – Yet businesses run from a rural area don’t appear to have a connection they can rely on. 

The report highlighted a range of issues these small rural businesses are facing, but here at Geekabit our focus is always on connectivity. This report illustrates that for small rural businesses:

  • Almost a third (32%) report issues with the reliability of their broadband (in comparison to 17% of urban businesses).
  • Twice as many rural businesses reported that unreliable broadband has affected their ability to contact customers (14% vs. 6%), reduced the competitiveness of their business (11% vs. 5%), and led to a loss of business or sales (10% vs. 5%).
  • Only 58 per cent of rural small businesses state that the speed of their broadband is sufficient for their current and future business needs.
  • 43 per cent of rural-based businesses have not yet changed their transport habits because of the insufficient local infrastructure to support electric vehicles (e.g. charge points).

Small rural businesses have a lot to offer their communities and industries. They shouldn’t have to face a loss of sales because of unreliable broadband. 

What Can Be Done for Small Rural Businesses With Unreliable Broadband?

There are a few different recommendations from the FSB to help tackle the negative impact of poor broadband connections on small rural businesses.

Update the Government USO

One recommendation from the FSB for tackling the issue of unreliable broadband in rural businesses would be for the government to update their current USO (Universal Service Obligation) minimum requirements for both upload and download speeds.

The current minimum requirements in the governments USO is 10 Mbps download speeds and 1 Mbps upload speed. The FSB doesn’t specify in their report what the updated speeds should be, but with the average download speed being approximately 79.1 Mbps we would think the USO needs to be higher than the 10 Mbps download speed deemed to be decent enough. Indeed, the European Union has plans for the universal download speed to be 100 Mbps by 2025. 

UK law states that every home and business has the right to a decent, affordable broadband connection, which is currently the 10 Mbps stated in the USO at a price of no more than £48.50 per month. 

But is that 10 Mbps download speed enough for a small rural business to function? Of course, it does depend somewhat on what type of business it is. A small boutique shop that only sells to customers in person might not need as high a connection as a photography and video editing business. 

Unfortunately, that USO hasn’t even managed to reach every UK location. There are tens of thousands of premises still unable to access download speeds of 10 Mbps due to their remote location – Largely due to the costs involved to create the necessary infrastructure. These places find themselves unable to connect to fixed line or fixed wireless services, whilst also being out of reach of suitable 4G/5G coverage. Making the necessary upgrades to these areas could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds if not into the millions. 

For this reason, just raising the minimum download speed in the USO isn’t going to be a magic fix for all rural businesses struggling with ineffective broadband. The infrastructure needed to really make a difference will take time and money to implement. Remember that this is also funded by the industry itself – Currently ISP’s BT and KCOM – Who have already committed to big legal and financial responsibilities by supporting the government’s USO scheme. 

At the end of the day, every business, including small rural businesses, deserve – And have the legal right to – decent broadband. And perhaps the USO figure of 10 Mbps isn’t cutting it now that we are doing business in a more connected world. A ‘decent’ broadband connection needs to reflect the individual needs and digital demands of individual businesses. Amongst other things, businesses need a strong connection to:

  • Communicate with customers – Online presence is essential in this day and age
  • Take online and mobile payments – Very few people pay using cash, and more customers are opting to pay via their smartphones
  • Send and receive large amounts of data 
  • Utilise E-commerce websites and ordering
  • Transmit orders to warehousing 
  • Connect via video conferencing

Project Gigabit Budget

The government has been trying to shrink the gap between the USO minimum speeds and the average internet speeds enjoyed in other areas with their Project Gigabit rollout. 

This aims to provide nationwide coverage by 2030 (nationwide meaning around 99%). 

The FSB recommends that the DSIT (Department for Science, Innovation and Technology) should take a proportion of the remaining budget allocated to Project Gigabit and use this to help those in hard to reach areas to connect to superfast broadband. 

LEO Satellite Broadband

Let’s not forget the possibility of LEO based satellite broadband like Starlink also being used to help those in particularly problematic areas. 

With more launches planned, this satellite network is only going to grow and could potentially help rural business (and homes) connect to more reliable internet.

The Shared Rural Network

There is also the Shared Rural Network scheme which is putting £1 billion into expanding 4G coverage. The FSB recommends that the DSIT ensures that the target of 95% of the UK having 4G coverage by 2025 is met. 

As part of the Shared Rural Network, our Wi-Fi experts here at Geekabit are helping to implement a rural 4G broadband scheme in West Sussex

Through this scheme, West Sussex businesses that are currently suffering from the slowest broadband speeds (10 Mbps or slower) are being supported to get online with an alternative 4G mobile broadband solution.

This 4G solution on offer to the county’s businesses uses 4G mobile data to connect their business premises to the internet in the same way that a smartphone sends and receives information. The solution uses a single, professionally mounted external antenna which is installed at the qualifying property. The external antenna can deliver a 4G signal directly into a newly supplied router, which then projects the connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi around the property, in the same way that conventional broadband works.

This investment in digital structure is part of the council’s plan to support a sustainable and prosperous economy, and businesses are already seeing huge benefits from using mobile connectivity. 

Get in Touch

If you own a rural business and are struggling with broadband connectivity then get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts today. Our professional engineers in Hampshire can advise whether 4G mobile broadband or Starlink Satellite broadband could help your business.

London Underground: 5G Deployed by Virgin Media O2 UK 

Last month, VMO2 became the last of the four primary mobile providers to begin their deployment of their ultrafast 5G mobile broadband service on the London Underground. 

Their 5G mobile broadband has been deployed on the:

  • Central Line – Between Queensway and Holland Park
  • Northern Line – Between Kentish Town and Archway 

5G Mobile Broadband on the Central Line

If you are a commuter on the Central Line, the Underground tunnels between Queensway and Holland Park now have 4G and 5G services following the new roll out. 

You should experience seamless connectivity when travelling through these stations. 

Nestled between Queensway and Holland Park is Notting Hill Gate Station, which has now been upgraded to be a fully 5G station. This means that Central Line platforms and ticket halls at this station will now have this latest mobile network available. 

The stations at Queensway and Holland Park have now had 4G introduced. 

With thanks to https://www.london-tube-map.info/central-line/ for the image

5G Mobile Broadband on the Northern Line

As a commuter on the Northern Line, you should now be able to connect to 5G from Archway to Tufnell Park stations. 

Kentish Town station will also now have 4G connectivity. 

With thanks to https://www.london-tube-map.info/northern-line/ for the image

Shared Platform from Boldyn Networks 

The same network platform from BAI Communications (Boldyn Networks) is being shared by all of the primary operators.

Transport for London have a 20 year concession deal with BAI. This allows them to build the infrastructure needed for fibre-fed mobile connectivity, and then make it available via wholesale. 

Revolutionised Commuting in the Capital

Having Underground connectivity has long been a dream for commuters travelling around London using the tube. 

Chief Commercial Officer for VMO2, Gareth Turpin, says:

“For the first time, our customers can access the latest 5G mobile services deep under London. This is set to revolutionise commuting in the capital, and in the weeks and months ahead we’ll be rolling out ultrafast mobile services at more Tube stations, in tunnels and on platforms to bring high-speed connectivity to our customers as they travel on the Underground.

This is part of our commitment to upgrading the UK and ensuring customers can access our network wherever they are.”

When will all of the London Underground have 4G / 5G mobile broadband connectivity?

The network coverage is set to expand further throughout this year. 

Back in 2020, earlier work by TfL and other mobile operators meant that there are already 4G services on the Jubilee Line between Canning Town and Westminster stations. 

Last month we saw the additions on the Central and Northern Lines outlined above. 

The target is for ticket halls, platforms and Underground tunnels throughout the London Underground network to have 4G and 5G connectivity by the end of 2024. 

Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements! 

Could Mobile Broadband Be Right For You?

If you think your rural home or business could benefit from 4G / 5G mobile broadband then please get in touch with our Wi-Fi experts. We operate across the South of England out of Hampshire, covering West Sussex, Dorset and the Isle of Wight. We are specialists in designing and deploying mobile broadband networks for those who struggle with the more traditional forms of broadband internet. 

Which UK City has the Fastest 5G Speeds? 

Opensignal, an independent global organisation who offer reports and insights into the world’s communication networks, have this month published data revealing the UK’s fastest locations for 5G mobile broadband.

The fastest city for 5G download speeds is Birmingham, coming in at 162.7 Mbps. The fastest region was the West Midlands with 151.4 Mbps 5G download speeds. 

Where does the data come from? 

The numbers in this report come from data collected across hundreds of thousands of devices like Smartphones between November 1st 2022 and January 29th 2023. Primary mobile network operators were then compared across different categories. 

Is 5G faster than 4G?

The study also reported on the uplift in mobile broadband speeds when devices went from a 4G to 5G network in various locations. 

The majority of users found 5G download speeds to be between 3.7 to 5.5 times faster than 4G. The biggest uplift was found in Reading, Berkshire where users enjoyed 5.5 times faster speeds on 5G. London however saw the lowest uplift at a rate of 3.7 times faster than 4G. 

With thanks to OpenSignal for the image 

Is 5G or 4G better in urban or rural areas? 

The report also studied the differences between rural and urban areas when it comes to 5G. You might think that there would be a difference in uplift between these types of areas, but there was actually little difference. For rural areas with 5G, the uplift was 4.7 times faster. In urban areas, the uplift for 5G was 4.5 times faster. 

With this being said, mobile broadband users in urban areas do see significantly faster download speeds on both 4G and 5G networks than those in more rural areas. On 4G networks, download speeds are 23.7% faster (5.8 Mbps) in urban areas. On 5G networks, download speeds are 20.1 Mbps which is 17.6% faster than rural areas. 

5G networks are more limited in rural areas with less coverage. Unsurprisingly, this means that users on a 5G network in an urban area spend more time with an active 5G connection than rural users (9.6% and 6.6% respectively. 

With thanks to OpenSignal for the image 

Where in the UK do users connect to 5G the most?

It will probably come as no surprise that it’s Londoners who are actively connected to 5G networks for the longest.

Unfortunately for us (as we’re based in Hampshire) the South East and South West come very near the bottom of the table when it comes to 5G availability and time spent connected to the network. 

Will mobile network coverage improve in rural areas?

As we mentioned above, the data from this report does reflect on there being a gap between the mobile experience of users in rural and urban areas. 

Thankfully, there is ongoing commitment and work happening to try and improve mobile connectivity in rural areas. 

The UK government and mobile network operators are currently working together on the Shared Rural Network programme to increase the geographic coverage of 4G networks. 

Last year in their 2022 Connected Nations report, Ofcom found that through the SRN and other initiatives, users should be able to get good mobile coverage from at least one operator across 92.2% of the UK. This is a rise of 0.3% from the year before so things are moving in the right direction.