An O2 4G cupcake in London today

It’s a big day for LTE in the UK as Vodafone and O2 both launch their LTE networks, giving EE some competition in the 4G space some 10 months after it first launched. However, EE’s rivals are hampered by the limited nature of their launches – London, Leeds and Bradford for O2, and just London for Vodafone. This will hit 13 and 12 cities respectively by the end of the year, but for most of the country outside London/Leeds it’s all rather less exciting.

Still if you are in coverage and you’re wondering if the networks are actually running and how they compare you’re in luck. I popped down to Oxford Street this lunchtime and into the relevant stores for some EE vs Vodafone vs O2 LTE speed test action.

While the numbers are good, my experiences in store were not exactly stellar however. Both O2 and Vodafone had specialist 4G staff on hand, but only the latter actually got it right.

In the O2 store, a very nice girl wearing a T-shirt with 4G on it was holding an outrageously large Samsung Mega in her hand. (Stupid for phoning, great for demoing). When I asked if she had a speed testing app installed on it she admitted she didn’t, and then tried and failed to install once while I waited. She then admitted that the phone was actually connected to Wi-Fi. As LTE demoes go, it was a fail.

Lovely girl though, and at least she gave me a 4G cupcake. So there’s that.

Bizarrely, and rather randomly, a man who claimed to work for a telecoms company that installs networks said he had a demo 4G O2 phone on him and offered to help, and the speed test result you see there is from that phone – a Nokia Lumia as you can see. 37.87Mbps down/12.86Mbps up. Not bad.

O2 launch day LTE speed test

O2 launch day LTE speed test

Vodafone, across the road, fared better. I walked in to see staff wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with 4G, and in response to my request for a 4G test phone with Speedtest.net installed, a Samsung Galaxy S4 was immediately presented to me.

One up for Vodafone.

The demo man did reveal that that the phone was actually connected to the stores in store router/femtocells, which clearly wouldn’t be a fair test at all, so outside we went. 42.48Mbps down/15.80Mbps down. Better ping too.

Two up for Vodafone.

Vodafone launch day LTE speed test

Vodafone launch day LTE speed test

By contrast my iPhone 5 on EE achieved 43.17/13.98 and a 64 ping. That’s a draw then, and perhaps a little disappointing considering that EE has twice the bandwidth to play with in London (2 x 20MHz). But then this should be offset by the fact that it’s a now (partially) loaded live network compared to a day one test, so it’ll be interesting to see how the others compare six months down the line.


EE London speed test

Interestingly the staffer claimed that Vodafone has internal targets of signing up 60,000 subscribers to LTE, (upgrades and new customer’s total) and has already exceeded this with 80,000 so far. This is not official of course, and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the information, but if true, it seems like a good number for two weeks works pre-launch. (I’ve put this to Vodafone but it had not confirmed this at time of writing).

The staffer also said that customers were being drawn to the Sky Sports or Spotify bundle, with the 4G seen as a ‘nice to have’ benefit. That’s very interesting in terms of how LTE/4G is perceived by customers – if rather depressing for the techy speed freaks amongst us.

On that basis it would seem that O2 is the one that could struggle to compete with EE’s coverage and Vodafone’s strong media bundle.

However, it pans out though, it’s good to see the UK, or at least London, getting what it really needs – competition in the 4G space.

Comments on: "UK finally gets some 4G competition" (3)

  1. Interesting post. Just wanted to clarify one thing – twice the bandwidth does not make any difference in unloaded networks until carrier aggregation is implemented by EE and phones are supporting it. This is what LTE-A /Rel. 10 brings.

  2. […]  almost a year, UK relied on the service of a major carrier, EE, but starting with this week things will change in […]

  3. Thanks for your comment Fredrik. I was referring to EE doubling its bandwidth by moving from 2x10MHz to 2x20MHz. This doesn’t require new hardware – its says so here: http://bit.ly/18wU02M and I have noted the speed increase for myself on my iPhone. As you say, LTE-A has yet to be implemented by EE.

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