EE still fastest for mobile internet ... but for how much longer?

The latest RootMetrics speed tests show that EE still outperforms rivals for speed, but gaps between EE, O2, Three and Vodafone are gradually closing up...

If you want the fastest mobile internet that money can buy, then you should probably sign up with EE. But will that always be the case? Maybe not, according to new research.

RootMetrics, which tests mobile network performance in the UK, found EE beats Vodafone, O2 and Three for both speed and reliability on its 3G and 4G mobile internet.

Around 25,000 tests were conducted in three different cities - Birmingham, Leicester and Coventry - and EE came top for all three, although it was more than twice as fast in Birmingham than in either of the two smaller cities.

On the RootMetrics scale, EE scored an impressive 94.8 in Birmingham, while Vodafone was second with 86.8, O2 came third with 83.4 and Three brought up the rear on 80.8.

However, EE's score for speed was considerably lower in the latest tests than in earlier RootMetrics studies. This is thought to be the result of more customers joining EE's 4G network, placing strain on its 'superfast' infrastructure.

In an interview with PC Pro last week, RootMetrics chief executive, Bill Moore, said the company's data showed "some" EE slow-down, to which an EE spokesperson responded by saying the network would need to introduce "more spectrum".

But while EE's mobile internet speeds were slower than in previous tests, all three of its main UK rivals - O2, Three and Vodafone - have seen "substantive" speed increases.

This can easily be explained, because RootMetrics data combines 3G and 4G results, and in the past year the number of UK mobile users with a 4G plan has been growing. As a result, the gap between EE's and its rivals' speeds is shrinking.

RootMetrics tests offer interesting insight but are criticised by some analysts for using data that's up to six months old and not following standard industry practice. You may wish to take their findings with a generous pinch of salt.

What the latest research suggests, however, is that EE's apparently unshakable position as the UK's fastest mobile internet provider may not be guaranteed for much longer.

If you're looking to upgrade to 4G mobile, which offers more reliable and faster mobile internet with speeds more akin to your home broadband, then depending on what's available where you live, you can choose from EE, O2, Three or Vodafone.

EE was the UK's first major 4G network, having launched in October 2012. It's still got by far the biggest network, but all four big providers are expanding their 4G coverage.

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