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Best and worst mobile providers for 4G coverage revealed

UK coverage is increasing year on year, but there's still room for improvement

New research shows that EE is the best mobile network when it comes to both speed and 4G coverage.

On average, EE customers have access to a 4G signal 78% of the time, according to new data from OpenSignal’s ‘State of Mobile Networks: UK’ report. EE was also the winner when it comes to both average 4G and 3G speed, though its average 3G speed was matched by Three.

Three was the weakest provider when it comes to 4G availability: its customers only have access to a 4G signal 57% of the time, though that is an improvement on last year. O2 has the slowest average download speeds on both 3G and 4G connections.

Find out more about how EE, O2, Three and Vodafone stack up in our guide on which phone network offers the best signal.

4G access is improving

Although EE was the overall winner when it comes to 4G availability, O2 and Vodafone are getting increasingly competitive – all three have improved since OpenSignal’s previous report in October 2016. Last year’s report found that the average O2 and Vodafone customer had access to 4G less than 70% of the time, with this rising to 74% for O2 and 71% for Vodafone.

However, despite improvement over the past year, the UK still lags behind countries like South Korea and Japan, where access to a 4G signal is available more than 90% of the time.

The report focuses on 4G availability rather than 4G coverage, the latter of which mobile networks often refer to. Estimates of 4G coverage can be based on computer modelling or one-off assessments, and therefore can be unrealistic, so focusing on availability of 4G gives you a better idea of whether you’ll be able to get a signal when you need it.

This year’s UK OpenSignal report is based on over 800 million data readings taken from over 50,000 devices. Find out which network has the best signal where you live using our mobile phone coverage map.

4G – peak and average speeds compared

As well as having the highest average 4G speed, EE came up trumps when OpenSignal looked into peak 4G speed – the high speeds offered by networks when they’re at their best. The reasons for average speeds being much lower include technical factors such as distance and interference, but also the fact that each network’s capacity has to be shared between all of its customers.

Despite receiving a slower peak speed than Vodafone, the data show that Three customers experience higher average 4G speeds. EE, Three and O2 all offer peak speeds that are around four times as fast as their average speed – Vodafone’s is six times as fast.

Which is the best mobile phone provider?

Picking between mobile phone providers isn’t just a matter of speed and coverage – there’s also price and customer service to consider too. And you’re not restricted to the four networks covered by OpenSignal’s research, as there are lots of virtual networks you can choose from.

These providers use the infrastructure from other networks, but have their own plans and customer service. Find out how they compare to Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone in our overview of the best mobile networks.

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