EE's the First 4G Network in the UK, But Just How Fast Is It?

By Sam Gibbs on at

So, EE's 4G network is up and running, well, for testing anyway. But just how fast is it, and what speeds can you expect once you get a 4G phone in the palm of your hand, in the next month or so?

We already know LTE is capable of absolutely blistering speeds. In our own testing of O2's beta network we were actually limited by the 4G modem's speed, not the network. We pushed 80Mbps-plus at times, but the current generation of LTE should be able to hit in excess of 150Mbps. Of course, that relies on some seriously solid backhaul, and no one else using the network, so what's actually realistic for Joe Bloggs on the street?

EE showed off some 4G-packing phones, including the Samsung Galaxy SIII and the HTC One XL, both just LTE-equipped variants of the phones we already know and love. During testing the phones managed to hit in excess of 30Mbps down, which is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not quite as quick as O2's test network was.

Mind you, that was using EE's upgraded, but existing backhaul, and it was in the centre of London with, presumably, quite a few Orange and T-Mobile customers around. Does that give us a realistic estimate of what you'll actually get on your 4G phones? Yes, absolutely.

While it's going to be much faster than 3G (I barely ever get more than 2Mbps here in the big smoke), with much, much lower ping times, it's not going to beat out your fibre broadband at home. In fact, EE's own speed estimates for consumers peg the network at between 8 and 12Mbps, or theoretically "up to 40Mbps", with upload speeds in the range of 5-6Mbps or up to 15Mbps. You might, however, get closer to the theoretical speeds using 4G dongles, but we won't know that until we can get our hands on one.

At any rate, it's certainly nothing to sniff at, but don't expect to replace your 100Mbps fibre with LTE any time soon, and maybe, unfortunately, those speeds we saw with O2 are a tad unrealistic, at least in the real world.