Operator EE has topped the list of fastest average mobile network data speeds in the UK, while Three was the fastest at serving web pages, according to regulator Ofcom's latest report.

Overall across all networks measured (EE, Vodafone, O2, and Three):

  • The UK's average mobile broadband download speed is 15.1Mbps using 4G networks, and 6.1Mbps using 3G.
  • For upload, the UK's average 4G speed was 12.4Mbps, and average 3G speed was 1.6Mbps.

The Ofcom report published on Thursday is the first research into consumers' experience of mobile broadband in the UK since the 4G auction in 2013.

Using smartphones, Ofcom engineers performed 210,000 tests of 4G and 3G mobile broadband, carried out both indoors and outdoors across five UK cities (London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, and Edinburgh) between March and June 2014.

The results are summarised below, showing which networks performed the best, and which the worst, in terms of HTTP download and upload speeds in the UK.

Operator4G network3G network

These results show that the mobile network operators are running a close race here, although Three as the last UK operator to roll-out 4G service appears to have some catching up to do in the download speed arena.

UK 4G and 3G smartphone web browsing experience

Ofcom found that on average it takes less than a second for a basic web page to load on a smartphone using a 4G mobile connection (0.78 seconds on average across all networks). On 3G the average page load time was 1.06 seconds across all networks.

  • Three offers the fastest web-browsing experience both on 4G (0.62 seconds on average to load a web page) and on 3G connections (0.93 seconds on average to load a web page).
  • EE provided the second fastest web-browsing experience on 4G (0.76 seconds on average to load a web page) and on 3G connections (1.05 seconds, on average).
  • It takes customers of O2 and Vodafone 0.82 seconds to load a web page on 4G connections. Web pages also took longer to load on O2's 3G service (1.17 seconds) compared with the other providers.

UK Mobile Network Broadband Coverage

Ofcom noted that 4G coverage varies across the UK, but has increased rapidly since the first service was launched in autumn 2012. Research was conducted in cities where both 4G and 3G are available, and 4G is available from at least one operator in around 70% of UK premises.

All four operators meet the 90% coverage obligation for 3G under the terms of their licences.

UK Mobile Broadband Network Coverage 3g 4g Ofcom
UK Mobile Broadband Network Coverage map for 3G and 4G - June 2014 Ofcom