Vodafone 5G in the UK is off to a rough start, with speeds typically slower than 4G

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I evaluated Vodafone’s network utilizing this Galaxy S10 Plus 5G.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Britain’s 5G race is warming up following the launch of Vodafone’s 5G service in numerous cities throughout the nation. The business is hot on the heels of EE, the UK’s biggest provider, which released its own 5G service last month. To see how Vodafone’s brand-new network compares, I went out to check it at areas throughout London and Manchester.

TL;DR: It’s bad.

With speeds typically slower than 4G, and substantial variations in arise from numerous test handsets, I can just explain Vodafone’s present 5G offering as an irregular mess. 

5G slower than 4G in Manchester

It began inadequately in Manchester where, just like EE’s protection of the fantastic northern city, Vodafone’s network is irregular. A peek at Vodafone’s protection map reveals that the majority of the center of the city isn’t covered by 5G, consisting of the popular Northern Quarter and the primary shopping mall. 

The primary protection hotspots are spread throughout numerous suburban areas surrounding the town hall, which is unexpected considered that the prospective high speed and, more significantly, the high capability of 5G implies the network would be more advantageous in the high traffic locations of town hall. Still, a couple of Uber flights later on and I had the ability to navigate to my numerous screening areas. 

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5G speeds were worryingly bad outside Manchester’s O2 Apollo music place.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

First, a note on my screening. For 5G, I utilized a Galaxy S10 Plus 5G, with a Vodafone 5G SIM. To compare it to 4G speeds, I utilized a routine Galaxy S10 Plus with a Vodafone 4G SIM. I performed at least 3 tests in each place utilizing Ookla’s Speedtest app. The ratings listed below are approximately each set. 

My initially place was the O2 Apollo music place at the postal code M12 6AP (this is the UK’s equivalent of POSTAL CODE). This area was highlighted as being “good indoors and outdoors” for 5G. My 5G phone returned a typical speed of 41.3Mbps down. 4G quickly beat that with a massive 216Mbps down. 

Further up the roadway in Ardwick, exterior Manchester College on Devonshire Street North (M12 4AH — likewise “good” for 5G on the service checker), 5G once again dissatisfied with a rating of 142Mbps down versus 4G’s 160Mbps. 

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Even beside Vodafone’s mast, I could not get great speeds.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

My next 5G hotspot in West Gorton took me through a housing estate, on the other side of which I discovered a little commercial website on Bennett Street (M12 5AU). Not precisely quite, or hectic, however I did observe that this commercial website was house to a Vodafone mast, or cell tower. Surely, in a peaceful location, in the middle of the afternoon, beside the mast is where I’d actually see what 5G can do. 

Not precisely. My 5G phone returned a rating of 68.6Mbps down, while 4G once again thrived with 95.2Mbps. 

I took myself off to the Old Trafford football arena — house of Manchester United — which is likewise in a “good” 5G location, according to Vodafone’s map. 5G speeds did increase a bit to 105Mbps down, however once again 4G was much better with 118Mbps. I ended my Manchester screening by heading into the residential area of Salford (M6 5JA), however in spite of it remaining in a “good” protection location, the phone would not link to a 5G network at all — even when I walked to various areas and rebooted the phone numerous times to attempt and link.

Manchester, then, was not precisely a success for Vodafone’s 5G network. 

Old Trafford - Manchester United

5G speeds didn’t get better outside the house of Manchester United Football Club.


Chris Hepburn/Getty Images

Confusing London outcomes

In my preliminary of tests in London, outcomes were similar as in Manchester, with 4G speeds routinely surpassing 5G. 

I started to have issues about my test gadget. Was it malfunctioning? I went over the possibility that the Exynos processor Samsung utilized in its phone might be accountable for slower speeds with market expert Ben Wood of CCS Insight. During his screening, Wood accomplished faster speeds with a Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, which has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip. Wood had, in truth, seen speeds over 500Mbps down utilizing that phone in Southwark, in South London. 

I chose to duplicate my tests, utilizing the very same Galaxy S10 Plus 5G I’ve been utilizing throughout the day, plus a 2nd Galaxy S10 Plus 5G phone, and the very same 5G Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 to make certain I’d left no stone unturned. In this round, things were, if anything, more complicated.

The 2nd S10 Plus 5G handset returned speeds either equivalent to or listed below the initial handset, which instantly put my concerns at ease about any type of hardware failure. But the disparities in the network stayed complicated. 

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Testing in London’s Northumberland Square.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

On one test in Northumberland Square in East London (a website Vodafone recommended I see), the initial S10 returned a great speed of 249Mbps down. But the 2nd S10 just handled 44.4Mbps. Essentially the very same phone, in the very same area, on the very same network at the very same time of day, offering extremely various outcomes. The Xiaomi phone, on the other hand, accomplished 93.3Mbps down while my 4G Vodafone SIM (now in an iPhone XS Max) handled 173Mbps, quickly beating both the Xiaomi and the 2nd S10 Plus 5G handset. For referral, I ran a test on EE’s 5G network utilizing the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G and it handled 432Mbps. 

On Great Suffolk Street in South London, both S10 Plus 5G handsets accomplished a healthy 246Mbps down. The Xiaomi then fizzled with just 77.3Mbps, once again falling back 4G, which handled 117Mbps. 

Then on Borough High Street, outside The Ship bar, 4G was once again fastest at 60.5Mbps, with the S10 Plus phones both being available in around 43Mbps and the Xiaomi routing with 36Mbps. 

Results were more combined at Bowling Green Lane where the brand-new S10 won with 155Mbps, followed by 4G on the iPhone with 102Mbps, with the Xiaomi once again at the back of the pack with just 52Mbps. 

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Testing outside The Ship near Borough in South London.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

So what does this inform us about Vodafone’s network?

It definitely appears that there are some early teething problems that require to be dealt with. The truth that my 4G speeds routinely overtook 5G speed is a genuine issue. Not just for the apparent factor that 5G, as marketed, ought to be much faster than 4G, however it’s frustrating that the phones appear not able to smartly change to the greatest, fastest network. 

The least I anticipated was for both phones to return similar outcomes, revealing that 5G will just utilize the 4G speeds if they are much better. But to have 4G being more than 4 times much faster (as held true in Manchester) is incredibly aggravating. As a user, paying more for a 5G phone just to have the very same 4G speeds — or even worse speeds — is annoying.

True, we are still in the early days for the network, and the circumstance will ideally enhance. When inquired about these outcomes, a Vodafone UK representative stated, “Vodafone UK launched 5G earlier this month. As with any new technology, we are continually working hard to optimize individual sites and antennas to ensure customers receive the best experience possible. We will also be implementing ongoing vendor software upgrades.”

But the concern stays, is it worth updating to a 5G phone on Vodafone’s network? Right now, certainly not. The substantial disparities suggest that you’re much better off sticking to your 4G phone till Vodafone’s network grows. Right now, you risk of suffering slower speeds than you currently get. 

If you’re desperate for 5G speeds, EE’s network, while still irregular, uses a more constant — not to point out faster — service. If you reside in among EE’s 5G zones it deserves thinking about. 

As for Vodafone, I’ll be keeping examine how the network establishes and will be retesting up and down the nation to see whether the continued rollout, mast enhancements and basic optimizations make its 5G service an engaging financial investment. 


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