How Britain is worse than Peru and Estonia for 4G mobile coverage despite billions from customers' bills being used to fund the service

  • Average overall availability of access to 4G signals across the UK is 65 per cent 
  • One third of the time, people's handsets are connecting to internet using 3G
  • The best 4G availability was found in the Middlesbrough and Teesside area

Britain lags behind the likes of Peru and Estonia in the availability of 4G mobile phone services.

This is despite the fact Britons have paid billions of pounds through their mobile phone bills to fund the supposedly 'high speed' service.

The average overall availability of access to 4G signals across the UK is 65 per cent, according to industry data.

This means that one third of the time, people's handsets are connecting to the mobile system and internet through the slower 3G network.

This puts the UK well behind the likes of Peru, Estonia, Latvia, and India in terms of availability.

New research from Which? and OpenSignal looked at 4G mobile services in 20 UK cities, where availability tends to be above the national average.

It analysed over 500million data readings from mobile phones taken from over 30,000 people using handsets across the country.

Best 4G availability was found in the Middlesbrough and Teesside area at 82.7 per cent of handset usage. This was ahead of Sheffield at 79.3 per cent, Sunderland on 79 per cent and Leicester at 78.6 per cent.

At the bottom of the league were Bournemouth and Poole at 67.5 per cent, with the Southampton and Portsmouth area at 69.6 per cent. Availability in London was 73.6 per cent, which was 16th of the 20 cities.

Fast download speeds over the 4G system are needed for smooth access to the internet, emails and streaming video.

Using this measure, the best place to live and work is Stoke with a download speed of 26.6 megabits per second (mbps).Second place went to Coventry at 24.8mbps with Leicester and Liverpool both on 24.4mbps.The most congested and slowest 4G services were in Brighton and Hove at 17.6mbps. Cardiff was at 17.7mbps and Bristol on 18.8mbps.

Which? said the industry regulator Ofcom must make good on promises to ensure mobile networks improve their services.

Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, said: 'These latest findings underline the need for Ofcom to keep the pressure on mobile operators, so that every part of the country gets a decent service on their mobile phone.' Brendan Gill, chief executive of OpenSignal, said: 'The mobile data experience isn't the same in every city for UK consumers.

'OpenSignal users found signals more often in Middlesbrough than in Manchester and faster 4G connections in Stoke than in London.'

In theory, 4G is up to ten times faster than the 3G system, but the average download speed with 4G mobile in the UK is 21.16mbps, which is just over three times faster than the figure of 6mbps for 3G.

And in some circumstances, the 3G system could end up being faster when 4G networks become overcongested. 

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