Leading mobile network benchmarking firm Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) has today released the results from its year-long study into mobile connectivity in the UK across the country’s major cities, towns and highways. Throughout 2018 it has collected over 2.6 million data points in scientifically controlled, real-world testing, as well as extensive focus groups and polling of consumers, SMEs and enterprises – because businesses and consumers demand different things from their mobile networks. GWS’ OneScore rankings then highlight how networks are performing weighted against what truly matters most to consumers and businesses using those networks. Key findings from 2018 test results include:
Reliability OneScore for Consumers – Rankings: O2 retains top spot, followed by Three (Fig.1)
Over the year, GWS has found that its Reliability OneScore ranking of operators (based on voice coverage, voice retainability and data success rates) has changed in some cities and towns. O2 has retained the top spot and is still ranked the most reliable network in the highest number of locations, followed by Three in second place. However, Vodafone has now moved up to third place (tied with EE) with a win in Birmingham; EE, on the other hand, did have one win in Hull but also lost top spots in Manchester and Leicester to O2, and Leeds to Three. Looking at reliability scoring metrics is important because, when asked to consider the five most important criteria in selecting an operator, GWS found that UK consumers are twice as likely to choose reliability instead of network speed.
Businesses OneScore – Rankings: All things point North for the best mobile network for businesses (Fig.2)
GWS’ poll of IT business decision makers reveals that 76% of UK companies report that their business ‘suffers’ when they receive anything less than ‘excellent’ mobile coverage. None of the top scoring regions for mobile business connectivity (Business OneScore) are located in the South of the country, with the best regions being the North East, the North West, East Midlands and Scotland. Businesses located in these regions are likely to have the fewest issues making mobile calls and the best online experience for completing business related activities. In contrast to this, the three worst regions on test for mobile business activities were Greater London, the South East and the South West.
The research results show that voice calling was the most important criteria for businesses in 2018 when selecting a mobile operator. While having a mobile phone to make calls will most likely remain an essential business function in 2019 and beyond, mobile phones are also used by 64% of businesses as mobile hotspots to fully support employees who are working where ever they are. It is therefore no surprise that for 60% of businesses, a top telecoms priority over the next decade is to better support employees working from home.
Motorways: 4G signal has drastically improved on all motorways across the country [Fig.3]
Compared to tests that GWS completed in early 2017, the data shows that 4G performance has improved across all motorways tested. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the worst motorway in 2018 was the M23 with 90% 4G signal availability, whereas in early 2017 the best motorway on test was the M60 which only had 82% 4G availability.
The M6 showed the most improvement on test, with 4G availability doubling in over a year and a half. Even during the 2018 testing period all motorways showed progressive improvements in 4G availability from the beginning of the year to the end. The best motorway on test in 2018 was the M60 with 100% 4G availability nearly the entire year.
Dr Paul Carter, CEO of Global Wireless Solutions commented: “There’s no denying that 2018 has been a busy year for operators, and while everyone is getting geared up for 5G, it’s great to see the significant strides that have been made towards improving 4G coverage levels across the country’s motorways. We’ve seen investments made across the networks with operators deploying advanced LTE features to help enhance connectivity, help manage network loading, and pave the way for 5G deployment in 2019. For example, we’ve seen O2 and EE deploy EVS wideband codec to improve voice quality; and we’ve also seen three of the four operators (EE, O2, and Vodafone) reach nearly 100% 4G calling (VoLTE) in the cities we tested. On the data side, we saw average throughputs relatively unchanged during 2018 but operators did add more bandwidth that most likely eased network loading. In addition, all operators with the exception of Three deployed 256QAM and three-channel carrier aggregation during the year.”
“While a lot of focus is being placed on 5G, 2018 was the year when consumers voiced their ongoing concerns about the importance of network reliability. In unstable economic times, it’s also important to look at the difference between business and consumer requirements from their networks – while a dropped call for a consumer is an annoyance, it can have damaging “bottom line” consequences for a business. The government has committed to driving forward technology for businesses across the nation, not just the South East, and our regional Business OneScore results indicate that the network investments operators are making in the North of the country are beginning to pay dividends in helping to bridge the economic North/South divide. However, the fact that London comes last should alert to challenges ahead in serving the UK’s biggest working population and this is something that must be addressed in 2019 and beyond.”
Figure 1: GWS Reliability OneScore Winners by Market
Market GWS Reliability OneScore Winner
Figure 2: GWS Business OneScore Rankings
Mobile Network Connectivity for Businesses
NORTH EAST 1
NORTH WEST 2
EAST MIDLANDS 3
N. IRELAND 5
WEST MIDLANDS 6
YORKSHIRE & HUMBER 7
EAST OF ENGLAND 8
SOUTH WEST 10
SOUTH EAST 11
GREATER LONDON 12
Figure 3: 4G coverage on major motorways
Motorway 4G %
GWS conducted this series of tests to evaluate mobile network performance across the United Kingdom. Just over 2.6 million data and voice task tests were conducted to evaluate the major network performances (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) in 38 major cities and towns, in 2018. The tests were conducted using the GWS OneMeasure App running on iPhone devices, Rohde & Schwarz’s Freerider using Samsung Galaxy devices, and the GWS Mobistat data evaluation and reporting platform.
Where the consumer survey is mentioned, this is in relation to work that GWS conducted with YouGov polling over 2000 UK adults in February 2018. All survey figures, aside from the business test results, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,727 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
GWS also worked with YouGov to conduct SME and consumer focus group sessions between November 2017 and February 2018.
GWS worked with Vanson Bourne to poll businesses on their attitudes towards mobile network connectivity. Total sample size was 200 UK business IT decision makers working in businesses with more than 250 employees. Fieldwork was undertaken between January and February 2018. The survey was carried out online.
About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.
Global Wireless Solutions, Inc. defines the industry standard for network benchmarking, analysis and testing. Its proprietary OneScore network ranking combines in-depth network testing data with real-world network usage scenarios to make the results of testing relatable and easy to understand. Working with some of the world’s largest wireless network providers, GWS offers standardised, high-quality network data and engineering analysis through a suite of benchmarking products, services, and OneMeasure diagnostic apps that includes drive, venue, and in-building testing.
Firmly rooted in a deep understanding of network engineering, GWS provides best-in-class, turnkey solutions to help customers better understand overall network performance as today’s wireless networks grow and evolve. Founded in 1996, GWS is headquartered in Dulles, VA. At last count, GWS has driven 12 million data collection miles for its customers. For more information, visit http://www.gwsolutions.com and follow us on Twitter at @gwsolutionsinc.