England swings like a pendulum do – in 4G speeds, says Opensignal

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Existing 4G networks are struggling to deliver a consistently good mobile experience, a new report says today.

As the industry prepares for the next generation, 5G, Opensignal (see chart) shows that in most of the world the quality of experience varies hugely through the day.

London had some particular broad pendulum swings throughout the day, ranging from 17.5Mbps to 38.3Mbps, a factor of more than two – though Paris had even bigger fluctuations in speed.

“The most extreme examples of hourly variation in speed were in Europe,” says Opensignal. “In Switzerland average 4G download speed yo-yoed between 29.2Mbps and 55.5Mbps throughout the course of 24 hours in our measurements, while in Belarus that range was even bigger, seesawing between 7.8Mbps to 39.1Mbps.”

This variation in speeds indicates the pressure from millions of simultaneous users with which operators must cope, says the company.

“While some countries offered much more consistency in speed than others, every country had some degree of speed fluctuation throughout the day.”

Even at the most demanding high-data-traffic hours, most European countries were able to maintain a minimum 4G download speed average of 20Mbps – but not in the UK, Italy or Ukraine, all of which fell below that level, though the UK’s lowest was just 19.7Mbps.

The peak time also varies, says Opensignal. While the vast majority of European countries racked up their busiest hours between 20:00 and 23:00 local time, UK consumers were most active on 4G networks at 17:00 local time, while for the Netherlands the peak time was one hour earlier.

The fastest speeds across the countries surveyed were, not surprisingly, in the early hours of the morning – at 03:00 local time.

Opensignal warns that 5G “will add new capacities to help with these wide time-of-day speed variations” but it “won’t just deliver faster speeds”, the company adds. “5G will provide a blanket of capacity, built using new high-bandwidth, high-frequency spectrum bands that will help mitigate the daily cycle of congestion we see on today’s 4G networks.”

The 5G Opportunity - How 5G will solve the congestion problems of today's 4G networks, is published by Opensignal today.