Not so fast - testing 4G

 

Rory Cellan-Jones speed tests the new 4G service in Manchester

For 36 hours, I have been trying out 4G in two cities where it has been launched by the EE network. Everywhere I've gone in London and Manchester, outside, indoors, on trains and in cars, I've used a speed testing application. And while I've seen some breathtakingly fast results, there has also been some worrying evidence that the speed and extent of the 4G network is being oversold.

Here is a selection of my results:

Monday 29 October, 14:55 GMT, Oxford Street: Download 53.74 Mbps, Upload 4.72 Mbps, Ping 33 ms

Screenshot of download speed

Picking up the 4G phone that I was borrowing from the EE store on Oxford Street, I gave it my first test - and it was very very fast. A 53Mbps download is better than the vast majority of UK broadband users could achieve at home right now - but obviously at EE's flagship central London store, the company had made sure the network delivered.

15:12 GMT, BBC Broadcasting House: Download 8.13Mbps, Upload 0.05 Mbps, Ping 62 ms

Oh dear - inside the BBC's new headquarters, things slowed right down. But then again, for some reason most mobile phone networks don't work at all inside the state-of-the-art building so this was better than many colleagues were getting.

18:55 GMT, Euston Station Food Court - no result

Deep inside a chaotic Euston Station, more problems. The Speedtest app could not detect any data signal at all.

19:19 GMT, Euston platform 7: Download 16.31 Mbps, Upload 12.09 Mbps, Ping 41 ms

But once we took our seats on the Manchester train, 4G leaped back into life. The upload speeds looked startlingly good as we waited for the train to leave. As we headed out through North London, however, the 4G network seemed to disappear even before we had breached the North Circular Road.

21:56 GMT, Manchester Piccadilly: Download 17.27 Mbps, Upload 11.57 Mbps, Ping 37 ms

Once we had arrived in Manchester, one of the 11 cities that were to go live with EE 4G on Tuesday morning, I was relieved to see that things were working.

Tuesday 30 October, 06:13 GMT, Teacup & Cakes Cafe: Download 19.37 Mbps, Upload 11.19 Mbps, Ping 57 ms

At the cafe which kindly opened at the crack of dawn so that we could broadcast into BBC Breakfast and numerous radio stations, another pretty good result. That kind of speed might not look too startling - but if there is plenty of capacity it would make 4G a very attractive option to small businesses looking for an alternative to fixed broadband.

10:34 GMT, Stanycliffe: Download 8.03 Mbps, Upload 1.80 Mbps, Ping 129 ms (3G)

We headed north out of Manchester to see how far the 4G network stretched. As expected it melted away as we crossed the M60, but EE's 3G network proved surprisingly robust. This result from a village on the road to Rochdale looks excellent - but if you can get this on 3G why would you pay more for 4G?

13:19 GMT, Media City Salford: Download 13.33 Mbps, Upload 6.31 Mbps, Ping 57 ms

Screenshot of download speed

Live from outside the BBC North base at Salford, we were back on 4G at a pretty respectable if unspectacular speed. Note the upload figure though - for anyone trying to send data rather than receive that will look very attractive. Mind you, inside the BBC building the 4G disappeared again. Vodafone has suggested that EE's brand of 4G won't be effective indoors - does that charge stick?

18:44 GMT, Near Stockport: Download 16.65 Mbps, Upload 12.88 Mbps, Ping 38 ms

As our train headed out of Manchester, the 4G network seemed to stretch as far as Stockport. Taking advantage of some impressive upload speeds, I uploaded a video to YouTube in under a minute.

21:43 GMT, Ealing London: Download 4.46 Mbps, Upload 1.51 Mbps, Ping 76 ms (3G)

Screenshot of download speed

But there was a disappointing end to my 4G testing marathon. Arriving at my home in the remote wastelands of west London, I found that EE's network did not stretch this far. True - this 3G result is a lot better than my usual network gives me at home. But if 4G really is supposed to deliver a superfast future, indoors and outside, to 98% of the UK's population, wouldn't you expect it to work right across the nation's capital? Maybe the change of brand to EE is a tacit admission that the network just cannot deliver Everything Everywhere.

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 191.

    The problem with and 4G and also 3G at the moment is that the mobile signal is not always strong wherever you are and that will vary the speed you get with currently 3G and when 4G comes out and thats in London. In some places I even struggle to getting mobile internet, let alone whether it's 3G or not

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 190.

    188.MXI
    14 Minutes ago
    Connected to this, Vodafone are upping their contracts, that's illegal. If they decided you should pay more after you both entering an agreement then you can decide to pay less, just as legal. They should only be able to do this at renewal, corporate bullying again.
    ===
    From what I read most providers have this buried in there T&C's
    in 2 point font ........

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 189.

    186.iShouldCoco
    2 Minutes ago
    >184. David H
    >All the ISP's I've looked at say "Up To" what's the problem?

    Can you think of any other service or product where you pay full price and get 'up to' the advertised product?
    Petrol - 'up to' 50 litres?
    Potatoes - 'up to' 5kg?
    Anything?
    ===
    If it's such a big issue,
    I suggest you contact Trading Standards - "Weights and Measure's"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 188.

    Connected to this, Vodafone are upping their contracts, that's illegal. If they decided you should pay more after you both entering an agreement then you can decide to pay less, just as legal. They should only be able to do this at renewal, corporate bullying again.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 187.

    185.iShouldCoco
    Just now
    The ubiquitous iPhone has superseded shell-suit fashion
    and become the chav-phone of choice
    ====
    There's even an app for it :)
    http://strugglingdesigner.wordpress.com/2009/08/09/ichav/

    The same people who say "I'm on PAYG, it's cheaper"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 186.

    >184. David H
    >All the ISP's I've looked at say "Up To" what's the problem?

    Can you think of any other service or product where you pay full price and get 'up to' the advertised product?

    Petrol - 'up to' 50 litres?
    Potatoes - 'up to' 5kg?

    Anything?

    When ISPs accept 'up to' the monthly rate in proportion to the actual 'up to' service provided there won't be a problem. Until then there is.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 185.

    >163. morechablis
    >Its a bit like most people that buy iphones, they are fashion victims.

    Yes.

    The ubiquitous iPhone has superseded shell-suit fashion and become the chav-phone of choice

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 184.

    171.Under-Used
    12 Hours ago
    Speed claims aren't worth the paper they're written on for either fixed lines or mobiles. ISPs continue, knowingly, to make false claims about service provision.
    ===
    If it's a false claim, it's trading standards.
    All the ISP's I've looked at say "Up To" what's the problem?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 183.

    When Rory's purportedly writing an article about 4G he manages to get in three screen shots all showing 'iPhone' in big letters (more than his usual number of screen shots) plus a video showing an iPhone.

    When Apple cocks a snoot at the UK justice system resulting in a second demand by the judge, in a case which they lost, Rory is as invisible and as quiet as a mouse.

    Is there a pattern?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 182.

    These results are poor when you factor in that you were probably one of very few using the 4g services. When 3g was first launched I could often obtain 7mb in London but now its 1-3mb at best and I suspect that contention will play its part in 4g speeds plummeting over the next year as subscriber no.'s rise.
    yet again we pay for advertised speeds that are rarely achieved in practice

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 181.

    Maybe EE should combine with Verizon and have:

    "Share Everything Everywhere" [my trademark 2012] :)

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57451500-94/why-verizons-shared-data-plan-is-a-raw-deal/

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 180.

    As with all things "now" 4G will be taken up by young people who can wave a phone infront of their friends and see "look Ive got 4G". Fair play, but wait til be get 5G and 6G and 7G etc. etc. When we run out of numbers will we end up with AG to GG. And actually who gives a .....................

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 179.

    For a relatively small country our 3G coverage is awful on Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere. I was on the outskirts of Portsmouth, no 3G, inside Westfield White City, indifferent 3G, Trafford Centre indifferent signal, Bracknell intermittent so why should 4G be any better?
    In South Africa in the bush you get a better service!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 178.

    172 - Seems reasonable to me.

    Living in semi-rural Wiltshire, there is no 3G signal, and frankly a signal of any sort is a pleasant surprise

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 177.

    With all the chest beating about the costs of the tariff, no one has actually talked about the true costs. When you take into account the up front cost of the phones plus line rental compared to the 12 month deals with the phone cost spread out - while on face value per month it is seemingly more expensive, actually they are surprisingly good value

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 176.

    It is clear why EE have structured the deals the way they have, most of our communications will be (if not already) driven via data (Facebook/imessage/facetime/email) replacing in some cases traditional mediums (texts/calls), plainly -a switch in under way to data as the chargeable variable.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 175.

    On balance I am impressed with speeds in this report, I am on fibre BB at home and I only achieve 6-8MB download if lucky a 1/3 of the advertised speed, to get 53MB is phenomenal, to get consistently above 5MB is more than adequate. It is widely reported you need 2MB to stream Iplayer - why would you need significantly more than this until all content is in HD. For me consistency is the key.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 174.

    Wouldn't a more accurate test be to use multiple smartphones, rather than just the iPhone? How do we know that it's not due to (more) issues with iPhone reception?
    Comments like "173. finaldest" are not unjustified when every BBC technical article seems to feature an Apple product in some way (even if it's about Microsoft, Google, Samsung or Nokia etc!).

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 173.

    How much does Apple pay the BBC to advertise their products?

    4G data allowances are not good enough and are too expensive. I won't be jumping on the 4G bandwagon anytime soon. No doubt it will take years to get full coverage and by that time the 4G network will be slow and overloaded with users resulting in very poor speeds.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 172.

    This might sound a little counterintuitive, but given the - promised - improvement for rural folk who get rather bad broadband, if at all, wouldn't it make more sense to establish 4G the remotest parts of Britain and then move into the cities? I know at the end of the day EE etc are in this for the moolah, but given the importance of 'distance working', 4G could part of the answer.

 

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