While data communications are ever more prevalent, customers still expect excellent mobile telephony quality.
In order to check out the voice quality of the UK‘s mobile networks, P3 conducted drive and walk tests in 13 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants and also covered a large number of towns and connecting roads all over the UK. In total, the test vehicles have covered 4,456 miles (see detailed description of the methodology on page 9).
Especially in the cities, Vodafone achieved the best results over its competitors, with O2 following at close distance. In the drive tests covering smaller towns, O2 excels, Three and Vodafone follow closely behind and EE comes last. Voice telephony on trunk roads and major highways obviously is a specialty of Three, with Vodafone ranking second and EE as well as O2 showing some weaknesses in this category.
Vodafone scores best in voice category
When looking at the call set-up durations, last year‘s overall winner EE exhibits a 1.5- to-2-second deficit behind its competitors. All in all, O2 and Vodafone managed to steal last year‘s top position in the voice category from Three. Success ratios and speech quality are mostly on similar levels, with a slight advantage for Three in rural areas as well as in terms of overall speech quality. While O2 is quite strong in smaller towns, it falls somewhat behind on connecting roads.
VOICE RESULTS AT A GLANCE
In all tested voice scenarios, last year‘s overall winner EE is losing some ground. Three, which took the lead in the voice category in 2015, has to give way to Vodafone and O2 this year. 2016’s winner in the voice category across all scenarios is Vodafone – with both O2 and Three following closely.
With the transmitted volume of data growing exponentially, all operators face challenges in providing a satisfying user-experience. Who manages to best meet the growing demand?
While all UK mobile network providers nowadays offer good coverage with their 4G services, there are differences in their rollout strategies. EE and Vodafone chase each other with continually growing data rates that currently go up to 450 Mbps, based on the so-called carrier aggregation (the combination of multiple carrier frequencies). In contrast, O2 and Three stick with a solid 100 Mbps and mainly focus on enlarging their 4G footprint.
P3‘s testing takes both aspects into account – the benchmarking of web-page downloads as well as file downloads and uploads rewards fast throughputs. At the same time, it assesses the networks‘ availability and stability by examining success ratios.
The testing of YouTube playback recognises that this popular video service has been introducing adaptive bit rates recently. This decision of the streaming provider aims at a better user experience, surrendering pixel resolution in favour of stable playback. As a consequence, besides success ratios, start-times and the absence of interruptions, the average value of the obtained video resolution became another important performance indicator.
EE clear data leader in large cities
In the drive tests and walk tests that P3 conducted in the 13 large cities of the UK, EE takes a clear lead in the data category. With this year‘s results EE maintains the high performance level it showed in our 2015 bench- mark. Vodafone is following at a distance of only 3 to 4 percentage points, while Three ranks third and O2 last – the latter showing obvious weaknesses especially in the walk test scenarios.
Vodafone narrowly ahead in smaller towns
Vodafone emerged narrowly ahead of its competitors in the results from drive tests in smaller towns, with EE and O2 a mere 1% behind in this category. In this discipline, Three is falling back a little, showing slightly worse success ratios, taking slightly more time to download the test web pages and achieving lower download and upload rates in some test cases. Still, all four operators show viable results when it comes to data connectivity in smaller towns.
EE also leading on major roads
On the major, connecting roads, EE again takes a clear lead, providing fast data rates and achieving convincing success ratios. Three also shows strong results in this category, while Vodafone and O2 lag a little behind – especially with regard to the success ratios of web page downloads and file transfers. Nonetheless, with all success ratios being well over 90% even on the relatively demanding connecting roads, all four mobile network providers of the UK improved considerably over last year‘s results.
DATA RESULTS AT A GLANCE
Especially in the data categories, the 2016 mobile network benchmark shows considerable improvement in all four UK networks. EE takes a clear overall lead in data services, with Vodafone narrowly ahead in smaller towns and over- all second in the data test.
Traditionally, P3 and Connect take a closer look at the capital to see how the operators cover this busy metropolis.
Being a major business hub and by far the most populous area in the UK, London is an especially demanding terrain in which to deploy and maintain a mobile network. This is why we regularly take a closer look to see how coverage in the capital compares with the rest of the country.
O2 offers best London voice service
In the drive tests and walk tests measuring voice services, O2 scores best and takes a lead over a second-ranking Vodafone. EE and Three share the third spot in this discipline.
Also in London: EE number one in data
In the London-based data tests, EE reclaims the top position that it already earned in the nationwide data category. Vodafone follows closely, just five points behind.
Overall London champion: Vodafone
Combining the voice and data results achieved in London, Vodafone comes out 5 points ahead of EE in this discipline, due to a good performance in both categories.
London results at a glance
In comparison to 2015’s test, all four carriers improved their services in the London area. The overall winner in the capital is Vodafone, with EE not far behind. In any case, definite improvements are visible in London as well as in the rest of the UK.