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Which UK cities get the best 4G signal?

Exclusive new data produced for Which? by mobile phone benchmarking experts OpenSignal reveals which UK cities offer the best chance of getting a 4G signal and which have the fastest download speeds. Read on to find out more.

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New research by Which? and OpenSignal has found that mobile phone customers in the north east of England have the best chance of getting a 4G mobile phone signal.

Unique analysis of over 500m data readings, taken from over 30,000 users of the OpenSignal app, revealed that phone users in Middlesbrough were able to access a 4G signal 82.7% of the time. That meant it came first in our rankings of 4G availability across 20 of the biggest cities in the UK.

Best networks for 4G – see which phone networks impressed when OpenSignal analysed 4G speed and availability across the whole of the UK.

Rank City Average 4G availability
1 Middlesbrough 82.7%
2 Sheffield 79.3%
3 Sunderland 79%
4 Leicester 78.6%
5 Leeds 78.2%
6 Liverpool 78.1%
7 Newcastle 77.9%
8 Birmingham 77.5%
9 Glasgow 77.5%
10 Edinburgh 77%
11 Bristol 75.9%
12 Manchester 75.3%
13 Brighton 75.2%
14 Coventry 74.8%
15 Stoke-on-Trent 74.3%
16 London 73.6%
17 Nottingham 73.3%
18 Cardiff 71.8%
19 Southampton 69.6%
20 Bournemouth 67.5%

 

Sheffield came second in our rankings, with residents able to access 4G 79.3% of the time, and Sunderland was third.

Surprisingly, London only came 16th while phone users in Bournemouth had the least chance of getting a 4G phone signal of the 20 cities we analysed, only able to access the faster speeds it offers 67.5% of the time.

However, residents of all 20 cities enjoy a better 4G experience than the UK population as a whole. Poorer coverage in more rural areas means that the average UK phone user can only access 4G 65.1% of the time – though our analysis shows that this is getting better.

4G speeds

Yet, while phone users in Middlesbrough have the best chance of getting a 4G signal, the average 4G speed that they receive – 20.8Mbps – is one of the slowest that we tracked in our city-level analysis.

And while this speed is still faster than many home broadband connections, it only placed Middlesbrough in 15th spot in our rankings.

Rank City Average 4G speed
1 Stoke-on-Trent 26.6Mbps
2 Coventry 24.8Mbps
3 Leicester 24.4Mbps
4 Liverpool 24.4Mbps
5 Nottingham 24.2Mbps
6 Birmingham 24.1Mbps
7 Manchester 23.4Mbps
8 Bournemouth 23.1Mbps
9 Sunderland 22.8Mbps
10 Southampton 22.6Mbps
11 Newcastle 22.5Mbps
12 Leeds 22.5Mbps
13 Glasgow 21.9Mbps
14 Sheffield 21.3Mbps
15 Middlesbrough 20.8Mbps
16 London 20.5Mbps
17 Edinburgh 20.4Mbps
18 Bristol 18.8Mbps
19 Cardiff 17.7Mbps
20 Brighton 17.6Mbps

 

Instead, phone users in Stoke-on-Trent experienced the fastest average downloads, enjoying speeds of 26.6Mbps. Coventry came second in our rankings (24.8Mbps) and Leicester third (24.4Mbps).

Again London performed relatively poorly, with phone users there restricted to an average speed of 20.5Mbps. This compares to an average speed across the whole country of 22.9Mbps.

Our analysis

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

We work together to look at the true mobile experience in the UK and monitor this by tracking the phone signal received by over 30,000 users of the free OpenSignal app. This latest report covers their experiences from 1 December 2016 to 28 February 2017 and is based on over 500m signal readings.

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

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

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