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Mobile phone coverage across the UK

Mobile coverage across the UK’s different regions

By Jon Barrow

Article 1 of 13

New data from Which? and Opensignal uncovers the reality of 4G coverage throughout the UK. Find out which regions have the best availability and which offer the fastest average speeds.

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The information contained on the page is based on mobile phone coverage from June to August 2016. You can read more up to date analysis in our 2017 national report and 2017 city breakdown.

New research by Which? and OpenSignal has found that the rest of the UK lags well behind London when it comes to having access to a 4G signal.

While 4G customers in the capital can use the speedy network 69.7% of the time, those in Wales have far more limited access and can only get 4G 35.4% of the time.

Region Average 4G availability Average 4G Speed
London 69.7% 18.8Mbps
Yorkshire & Humberside 61.3% 22.8Mbps
North East 60.3% 20.1Mbps
Northern Ireland 58.5% 23.3Mbps
North West 54.8% 20.6Mbps
South East 54.3% 21.9Mbps
West Midlands 52.3% 21.6Mbps
Scotland 50.4% 21.1Mbps
East Midlands 49.9% 22.8Mbps
East of England 48.9% 22.3Mbps
South West 45.7% 20.9Mbps
Wales 35.4% 21.7Mbps

 

Yet, while phone users in London have the best chance of getting a 4G signal, the average 4G speeds that they receive are, surprisingly, the slowest in the country. Our data showed that while 4G customers in London receive an average download speed of 18.8Mbps, those in every other region achieved average speeds of at least 20Mbp. And in Northern Ireland, the region with the fastest average speed, customers managed an average of 23.3 Mbps.

This result is likely due to the greater demand for 4G in the capital, which causes congestion that drags down speeds.

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The best and worst networks

As well as reviewing overall 4G speeds and availability in each area, we also compared how the four networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – performed.

Our analysis showed that EE generally offered the best 4G availability across the country. It topped our availability rankings in seven of the 12 regions that we assessed and tied for first place in the remaining five.

These findings backed up the results of our national coverage report, which showed that EE offered the best 4G availability across the UK as a whole. Three offered the worst overall national 4G availability. Its customers had the least access to a 4G signal in every single region and, in Wales, could only connect to its 4G network in one of out of every four attempts.

3G availability

If 4G isn't available, customers will often drop on to the slower 3G network. The good news is that, in most regions, our testers were able to get a 3G or better connection more than 80% of the time, though London was the only region where that number was above 90%.

The regions with the lowest access to mobile data were Scotland, Wales and the South West, all of which had less than 80% availability.

Our analysis

The information used in this analysis comes from a regular collaboration between Which? and coverage experts OpenSignal.

We took more than 500m data readings between June and August 2016 from 28,841 people that have downloaded the free OpenSignal app. By using this data, we are able to create an accurate picture of the true state of phone coverage in the UK.

We've also used the data to build an interactive coverage checker. You can use this free tool to find out which network has the best coverage where you live.

Read more about our approach, and download the free app, from the OpenSignal website.

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