A new study by OpenSignal and Which? has ranked 20 UK cities in order of their 4G availability and speed.
OpenSignal recorded data readings from December 2016 to February 2017, analysing the 4G experiences of over 30,000 users, and found that Middlesbrough is the best place in the UK for 4G availability, with 82.7% coverage. This is some distance ahead of nearby Sunderland in third (79%) and second-placed Sheffield (79.3%).
Meanwhile, the South Coast appears to be something of a 4G blackspot, with Bournemouth/Poole (67.5%) and Southampton/Portsmouth (69.6%) at the bottom of the table. Even London could not make it out of the bottom five with a mediocre 73.6% coverage.
When looking at the fastest 4G connections, it was Stoke-on-Trent that came out on top followed by Coventry, while bottom-placed Brighton and Hove continues a trend of sluggish and patchy 4G on the South Coast.
Liverpool put in a respectable performance, coming fourth for its speed and sixth for availability, while Manchester was seventh and twelfth respectively.
The results, however, show significant disparity between the UK’s biggest cities, let alone its more rural and isolated areas, and may explain why the country is not even in the world’s top 50 for 4G coverage.
A separate OpenSignal study published in November 2016 showed the UK to have a 4G coverage of just 57.94%. This left it in 54th place in the world, behind the likes of Albania, Morocco and Panama.
For a country where 92% of the population are ‘internet users’, and with mobile now responsible for more internet traffic than desktop devices, the UK’s unremarkable 4G set-up and inconsistency from one city to the next will leave many observers wondering why the country is not among the world’s front-runners.
Describing the situation as “critical”, Which? has called upon government telecommunications authority Ofcom to pressure mobile networks to develop their 4G services. In a statement, Ofcom agreed that improvement was needed, but pointed out that by Ofcom regulations, almost all UK homes will need to have 4G made available to them by the end of this year.
Perhaps one of many issues to think about before people cast their vote in the General Election on June 8 is which party is going to do the most to improve internet while we’re out and about, particularly if we happen to be in Bournemouth, Southampton or Brighton.