Ofcom: UK’s 5G customers spend 10% of their time connected to 5G networks

Ofcom: UK’s 5G customers spend 10% of their time connected to 5G networks


Crowd sourced data collected by Opensignal between October 2022 and March 2023, has been published by Ofcom in its 2023 Mobile Matters report.

The report examines the share of data connections across wireless network technologies (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G and Wifi). It also explores the success rate for mobile data connections, the response times for different mobile technologies, the time to download and upload different sized files, and download and upload speeds across the UK’s four mobile network operators.

The report found that most mobile network use was over 4G. Mobile users were connected to a 4G network for an average of 88% of the time and were without any mobile connection for around 1% of the time.

Mobile users spent an average of 6% of the time connected to 3G. As mobile network providers prepare for 3G switch off, Ofcom suggested they will need to ensure broadly the same 4G coverage as 3G and support mobile users who need an updated handset in order to minimise disruption.

The 5G non-standalone technology employed by the UK’s networks mean a 5G connection is only made when a data connection is required. This meant that across the UK mobile network, customers were only connected to 4G 4% of the time, and this figure only increased to 10% filtering the results for customers with a 5G data plan.

While 4G still dominates cellular connectivity, Wifi remained the primary means of handsets connection to the network. The report found that mobile users spent an average of 62% of their time connected to Wi-Fi.

Across mobile networks, EE customers spent the most time connected to 4G at 91%. O2 customers spent the least time connected to 4G at 84%, but the highest proportion of their time connected to Wifi at 67%.

While connected to 5G networks, customers experienced significantly better download and upload speeds in relative terms, compared to 4G and 3G, but incremental benefits in real terms.

Average download times for a 2Mb file on 4G was twice as long as 5G, but still only took 0.4 seconds longer.

As file sizes increased to 5Mb the benefits were more apparent, with 5G networks able to download a file in 56% of the time it would take over 4G.

The report also analysed download speeds measured using tests that consume as much data as the connection can download over the duration of the test. These showed that download speeds were fastest over 5G, averaging 129.9 Mbps compared to 29.5 Mbps over 4G and 5.9 Mbps on 3G.

O2 customers had the longest average download times for 2Mb and 5Mb files across all three mobile network technologies.

O2 customers also experienced the slowest average download speeds over 5G and 4G networks (74Mbps and 19Mbps respectively). Three’s 5G download speeds clocked in at 235Mbit/s.

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