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London lags rest of Europe in 5G network quality, report says

by SuperiorInvest

Testing internet speeds on an Oppo Reno 5G smartphone with the US network.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

London is far behind other major European cities when it comes to the quality of its 5G connection, according to a report shared with CNBC.

Findings from fixed and mobile network benchmarking firm MedUX found that London ranked 10th for quality of 5G experience in Europe, out of a group of 10 cities that includes Berlin, Barcelona, ​​Paris and Lisbon.

The German capital had the best 5G experience overall, which MedUX attributed to Berlin's superior performance in areas such as network coherence across different application tiers and overall low latency.

“They are very good at doing things correctly,” Rafael Galarreta, MedUX's marketing director, told CNBC in an interview.

“They are the best in certain worlds,” he added, highlighting the city's prowess in streaming video and data for over-the-top media platforms.

MedUX uses robots to evaluate the quality of fixed and mobile wireless Internet broadband, identifying and resolving network problems. The company works with telecommunications providers, regulators and companies to compare and monitor networks.

According to MedUX, Berlin has the best 5G coverage of all European cities overall, with a range of 89.6%. It's also the best city overall for 5G streaming, with an average latency of less than 40 milliseconds.

Berlin, Barcelona and Paris achieved the highest scores among European cities in MedUX's overall 5G quality benchmark. Lisbon, Milan and Porto were runners-up.

London, on the other hand, was near the bottom of the ranking of European 5G networks. According to MedUX, almost 77.5% of the city's population now has 5G on their devices, below the urban average.

London also performs poorly on downlink speeds, with MedUX data showing the city offers users an average download speed of 143 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to Lisbon's 528 Mbps, 446 Mbps in Porto and 326 Mbps in Barcelona.

Munich in Germany, the second worst city for 5G downlink speeds, had average download speeds of 259 Mbps.

“The UK is struggling for a number of reasons,” Galaretta said. “We've already talked about macroeconomic issues, but the two most important dimensions in which UK mobile networks are lagging are speed, accessibility and network responsiveness.”

Network responsiveness, Galaretta said, affects latency, which impacts data-intensive applications such as online gaming, and in particular cloud gaming, which provides consistent delivery of games at a faster rate. end user through a remote data center.

The blame for the Huawei ban?

The figures shared by MedUX also paint a clear picture of how British operators are underperforming their European peers in 5G quality.

EE ranks 12th among the top 36 operators in European markets for 5G quality of experience, data MedUX shared with CNBC shows. Vodafone is ranked 24th, while Three is ranked 33rd. O2 is ranked 36th. These companies and EE's owner BT were not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Tuesday.

Galaretta highlighted the UK's decision to ban Huawei from its 5G network as a possible reason behind the poor performance in 5G network quality.

The UK began rolling out 5G networks in 2019, when British operators EE and Vodafone launched superfast data plans in the country for the first time.

It has faced difficulties, after the UK government announced in the summer of 2020 that Huawei would have to completely ban 5G equipment from its network by 2027. British operators, who have sharply criticized the decision due to the disruption of their deployments , have been racing to get rid of Huawei Equipment on their core and non-core networks.

“This delay in rollout has likely impacted overall coverage, availability, and user experience, particularly considering that Huawei's ban came after the initial rollout had already begun,” Galaretta said.

Galaretta noted that quantifying the effects of the Huawei ban in the UK is a difficult task, as MedUX's research primarily focuses on measuring service quality and end-customer experience.

Another factor at play, Galaretta noted, is the impact of industry mergers and acquisitions, along with subsequent pushback from regulators, which have led to disruptions at certain facilities.

MedUX tests the quality of 5G in several different environments, including through radio technology samples and multi-threaded download speed tests based on public content delivery networks.

It also takes into account the quality of use of a variety of different online services, including X, Facebook, YouTube streaming, the ease of access to a given URL, requests to game servers, and navigation on websites accessed through a Google Chrome browser.

Huawei competes with network infrastructure giants such as Ericsson in Sweden and Nokia in Finland.

Despite Huawei's ban in the UK, the Chinese telecoms provider still has a large presence in the country's 5G network. According to a report by Strand Consulting, equipment from Chinese suppliers (among which Huawei is the only active in Britain) still accounts for around 41% of the UK's 5G network.

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