Ofcom look into Mobile for Those on Holiday

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EE stands out as the mobile network operator with the best latency in the UK, while O2 lags behind with the slowest download speeds, according to recent data from Ofcom. The regulator has released its annual Mobile Matters report, utilizing crowdsourced data to compare user experiences across different networks and technologies. Of particular interest are the benchmarks that highlight the disparities among telcos. Notably, EE leads the pack, while O2 falls behind.

The report reveals that EE achieved the fastest average response time across 3G, 4G, and 5G networks, outperforming other mobile network operators. Conversely, O2 ranked last in both 3G and 5G latency, with Vodafone being the slowest in 4G. Surprisingly, despite the availability of 5G, UK mobile customers were found to be connected to 4G networks approximately 88% of the time.

EE’s performance was also remarkable in terms of download speeds, leading in average 4G download speeds and tying with Three for 3G. However, Three outpaced EE on 5G. On the other hand, O2 exhibited the slowest speeds for both 4G and 5G, sharing the last position with Vodafone on 3G. Similarly, EE and Three topped the charts for average 3G and 4G upload speeds, while O2 struggled again, providing the slowest upload speeds for 4G and 5G.

Additionally, O2 customers experienced the longest average file download times compared to other MNOs, with downloading a 2MB or 5MB file taking significantly longer on O2’s networks across 5G, 4G, and 3G.

Considering the ongoing cost of living crisis, these findings may be concerning for UK mobile customers. Furthermore, as many UK residents plan to travel abroad during the summer, Ofcom is taking measures to inform them about potential extra costs related to roaming charges.

After the UK’s exit from the European Union, mobile operators regained the ability to impose roaming charges, no longer bound by the ‘roam like at home’ rules. Ofcom’s research revealed that 19% of holidaymakers are unaware of potential extra charges while using their phones abroad, which could amount to as much as £2 per day. Additionally, 18% of travellers admitted not checking roaming charges before embarking on their trips.

To address this, Ofcom proposes implementing roaming alerts as a key tool to keep travellers informed. These alerts prompt users to modify their phone behaviour, such as switching to WiFi, using less data, or turning off data roaming altogether. The proposed guidelines would require MNOs to inform customers about roaming charges and actions they can take to manage costs effectively.

Many operators already send such alerts, but some may need to adjust their systems and processes. Ofcom suggests a six-month implementation period from the date of its decision, expected to be around early 2024, following a consultation period until late September of the current year.

Thus, UK residents traveling abroad this summer need to stay vigilant regarding mobile roaming charges, while also being mindful of network performance at home, as the report highlights significant differences among networks.

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