EE 4G “is starting to slow down”

EE’s 4G performance is starting to suffer as more people join its network, according to network monitoring firm RootMetrics.


Test results published by RootMetrics in March said that EE had the fastest and most reliable mobile network in the UK, although only EE had a fully operational 4G network for the full duration of the testing period.

We’ve started to see some EE slow down… and we’re seeing a speed up on all the other networks

Now, however, RootMetrics is beginning to see EE’s speeds slope off, as the network becomes more congested. “We’ve started to see some EE slow down… and we’re seeing a speed up on all the other networks because they’ve [now] got LTE,” said RootMetrics CEO, Bill Moore, speaking exclusively to PC Pro. “It’s a bit of a rollercoaster. It’s going to ebb and flow.”

Moore said the pattern of EE’s performance is very similar to what happened in the US, when an early leader was dragged back into the pack. “LTE has been in the US for an extra 12 to 24 months,” said Moore. “And we’ve watched the leader within the marketplace – who had a about a year lead on everybody else, similar to what EE had here – [and] they were the fastest in year one. And then what happened is more and more cell phones came into that network and that slowed down the network.”

EE says it has extra spectrum capacity to help it deal with demand on its network. “Our strategy is very clearly based on the knowledge that as we bring more customers on to the 4G network, we need to introduce more spectrum.” a spokesman told PC Pro.

“That’s why we launched ‘double speed’ last year in our busiest markets, doubling the amount of spectrum from 10MHz to 20MHz of 1800MHz – to ensure that there’s a consistently fast speed available to all customers. And there’s the carrier aggregation 300Mbits/sec network we’re rolling out in London, using our 2,600MHz spectrum, that’s up there with the fastest networks in the world, and is only possible because of our unique spectrum holdings.”

Update 20 May:

RootMetrics’ CEO, Bill Moore, has contacted us since the publication of this story, claiming that he “either created some confusion in how I stated things or misspoke”, in regards to his comments about EE. He has sent us the following statement for clarification:

“Vodafone and O2 are showing substantive speed increases. This is expected with their deployment of LTE since they had very little last year. We are seeing slight speed increases with Three as it begins its LTE deployment. With EE we are seeing it maintaining speeds on average across the markets.

“This is likely due to three variables: its expansion of LTE coverage, the deployment of the AWS technology, both of which would increase its average speed, and third, increased installed base providing some slow down. Adding all three variables together, it is maintaining its speed. What is slowing down is the rate of speed increases we saw from last year.”

“Independent” testing

The results of RootMetrics’ last round of tests were hotly disputed by Vodafone, which accused the firm of carrying out testing that “does not appear to follow standard industry practices or is fully impartial,” presumably a reference to the fact that EE is a customer of RootMetrics.

Moore refuted Vodafone’s allegations, claiming that RootMetrics was the only company providing real-world testing of network performance in the UK.

He claimed that most mobile network testing harks from the carphone era, and consists of test vehicles driving around to monitor coverage. Indoor coverage is simulated by lowering the gain on the antenna, instead of actually testing indoors.

RootMetrics conducts its testing using off-the-shelf handsets, which it buys from the networks’ own stores, instead of specialist test equipment. “We take their entire portfolio of hero devices, and we benchmark those behind the scenes,” said Moore. “We select the phone that is effectively going to show them [the network] in the best light – it’s a best-case scenario.”

The phones are then tested across the country, comprising of 840,000 individual samples in the last test, including both indoor and outdoor signal tests.

“Our claim to fame is really to be as close as possible to what the consumer actually experiences,” said Moore.

“Most testing that takes place out there has been contracted for, and had its methodology dictated by, the operators themselves. In our case, we are 100% independent. We determine what the methodology is.”

Moore said RootMetrics listened to “anyone’s input” on test methodology, but denied it had made any specific changes to its testing at the behest of EE.

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