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UK's EE scores network reliability clean sweep, rival dwarves fume

O2 bumps along the bottom. Shoulda tried harder with LTE

By Andrew Orlowski, 6 Sep 2016

EE has edged ahead of CK Hutchison’s Three as the most reliable UK mobile network, according to RootMetrics' biannual survey.

With its scale and tasty spectrum, EE still tops the board in overall performance, and all six individual measures including network speed, data, call and text performance.

The previous survey, conducted in the second half of 2015, had crowned Three the most reliable UK network. It retains a lead over Vodafone and O2.

“Three’s reliable data and strong call and text performances helped the network retain its second place position for Overall Performance, despite finishing in last place for Network Speed,” said RootMetrics.

RootMetrics tests both indoors and outdoors, and bases its biannual numbers on more than 800,000 tests. Much depends on where you live in the UK: see here for more details on the nations.

O2 came fourth in the overall rankings, behind Vodafone, finishing last for speed, data speed, call and text performance, and it duly earns a telling-off for not investing in LTE:

The gaps in the scoring between O2’s performances and those of the leaders in the holistic categories of overall performance, network reliability, and network speed in each nation were generally wide and remained relatively consistent across both second-half 2015 testing and first-half 2016 testing, suggesting that O2 simply doesn’t yet have a widespread 4G footprint beyond metro areas.

Regulators thwarted Three’s attempt to buy O2 earlier this year. Ofcom remains wedded to the idea of four national networks, even if the result is "one giant toying with three dwarves".

Today Three’s CEO David Dyson renewed his call for Ofcom to ensure competitors get better spectrum. Ofcom is flogging off 190MHz of usable spectrum next year but has not yet set the rules of the auction.

“The UK currently has one of the most uneven distributions of spectrum across Europe. Under the current set-up, networks are able to stockpile vital mobile airwaves to the detriment of competition, choice and quality for consumers,” the company said at a presentation to investors. Three wants no operator to “own more than 30 per cent of the airwaves”.

Three reported revenue down two per cent but higher margins (up 12 per cent) over the first half of last year, in a financial statement today. ARPU fell three per cent to £19.50. Three prefers AMPU (average margin per user) arguing this is a truer performance indicator. AMPU excludes the handset revenue and interconnect costs from ARPU. ®

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