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Vodafone emerges as EE challenger in first-ever London Urban Experience

Tags: Everything Everywhere, Vodafone (LON:VOD), O2/Telefonica (NYSE:TEF), Three (HKG:0013)

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In RootMetrics testing of core districts, Vodafone ties with EE for overall performance

September 29, 2015: RootMetrics, the independent mobile analytics company, today released the most comprehensive look ever into consumer mobile performance in London’s most densely populated areas. The London Urban Experience special report includes testing results from core districts as well as important sporting venues, airports, train stations and major shopping centres.

The results by RootMetrics, an IHS (NYSE: IHS) company, show that although EE is the top-performing operator, Vodafone is emerging as a serious contender, especially in the seven central districts making up the London Urban Zone.

Some highlights:

  • EE claimed 15 out of 19 overall awards outright or tied for first place, with Vodafone second with seven awards, across all London areas tested including the London Urban Zone, venues, transit stations, retail locations, and airports.
  • In the seven central districts making up the London Urban Zone, EE and Vodafone shared the overall performance award. EE won or shared three other awards and Vodafone won two others in the Urban Zone.
  • EE claimed two out of three titles across the tested London venues
  • Vodafone secured two titles for the capital’s train stations
  • EE claimed the top spot for both Westfield shopping centres, tying with Vodafone at Westfield London (Shepherd’s Bush)
  • EE earned a clean sweep across the city’s airports
  • O2 and Three’s solitary wins both came in text performance in the Urban Zone
  • Reliability was excellent across testing, with the exception of venues
  • The London Urban Zone tests were carried out across seven districts including Canary Wharf  and Westminster

Total Urban Experience

Londoners rely on their mobile phones, and they expect them to work wherever they are, whether they’re in a taxi, waiting for a train, out shopping, or watching a match at Wembley. To reflect these needs, RootMetrics has added new testing areas this year to reflect the places that are important for city dwellers, including core urban districts, venues, transit stations, and retail locations. The reports based on these offer detailed local data to complement RootMetrics’ existing suite of reports covering airports, larger metro areas, the nations of the UK, and the UK itself. 

In looking across the London Urban Zone (made up of seven central districts), venues, transit stations, retail locations, and airports, EE topped the rankings on its own or tied for 15 out of 19 awards. Vodafone claimed seven out of 19 awards, while O2 and Three each claimed one award.

In past RootMetrics testing within the UK, EE has generally led the pack uncontested. In fact, in the most recent results for the larger London metropolitan area, EE won or shared all awards. The latest results reveal that Vodafone, especially, is offering real competition in the city core, which could expand elsewhere as upgrades continue.

London Urban Zone

In its first-ever evaluation focusing on a city’s most densely populated areas, RootMetrics, recently acquired by IHS Inc., conducted 60,000 tests, with 50% of time spent indoors, in order to provide the most accurate picture of mobile performance in seven central London districts. Testing was carried out in Bloomsbury, Canary Wharf, Chelsea, City of London, Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Westminster - the districts which collectively make up the London Urban Zone. 

EE and Vodafone shared the overall performance award in the London Urban Zone. EE also won awards outright in network reliability and mobile internet performance, while sharing the text performance award with O2 and Three.  Vodafone secured the network speed and call performance awards outright.

Reliability across the London core is generally solid, showing that consumers should generally expect smooth service throughout the city with the exception of venues, which have room for improvement.

One area where EE is not leading is blocked calls, with double the failure rate (2.6%) as Vodafone (1.3%). EE does, however, have the largest 4G footprint across the London Urban Zone (95.8%), although every operator is now above 75%.


In tests conducted inside some of the capital’s major venues, EE claimed two out of three awards, coming out on top at Wembley Stadium and the Emirates Stadium. Vodafone secured first place at the O2 Arena. Speed was found to be an issue at the venues, with none of the operators able to provide consistently fast speeds at every venue. EE had the fastest speeds at Wembley and the Emirates, but dropped significantly at the O2 Arena.

The fastest median upload speed found at any of the venues was EE’s 9.9 Mbps at the Emirates, which would allow a 4 Mb photo to be uploaded in around 4 seconds. Meanwhile, at Three’s median upload speed of 0.2 Mbps recorded at Wembley, the slowest of any venue, it would take around 2.5 minutes to upload the same photo.

The ability for mobile users to make a network connection, and stay connected until the mobile task, call, or text is complete is a major issue for the operators at these venues. Only Vodafone was able to provide excellent reliability performance once the consumer has connected to the network at the Emirates and while connecting and staying connected at the O2 Arena. EE and O2 offered excellent performances once connected at Wembley and the O2 Arena respectively, but the operators struggled in reliability across the rest of the venues, with Three failing to achieve an excellent score at any venue.

Train stations 

Vodafone and EE divided the awards at the capital’s major train stations, where testing was conducted throughout the main concourses and platforms. EE earned the top award across Euston, London Bridge, and Waterloo, with Vodafone winning Liverpool Street outright. The two operators tied for the overall award at London Victoria. EE achieved the fastest and most consistent speeds across the stations, with a noteworthy 32.2 Mbps median download speed at London Bridge. Vodafone, meanwhile, secured the fastest median download speeds at Liverpool Street and Waterloo, and showed greater reliability overall.


EE earned a clean sweep across all the capital’s airports for overall performance and speed. EE’s median download speed at Heathrow was the fastest recorded at any airport. At 31.2 Mbps it was six times faster than the speed of the next closest operator at Heathrow, Three. Operator performance proved to be the most reliable at London City Airport, with every operator achieving an excellent rating for reliability.


In the test of the capital’s biggest shopping centres, Vodafone tied for the top award at Westfield London Shopping Centre in Shepherd’s Bush with EE, who also claimed the Westfield Stratford City Shopping Centre title outright. Operator performance was most reliable at Stratford, with only O2 failing to achieve excellent performance. Vodafone was the only operator able to produce an excellent performance at Westfield London once connected to the network.

Scott Stonham, Director of International Strategic Accounts at RootMetrics, said: “London is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and this report gives a scientific indication of how likely you are to enjoy solid mobile performance in some of its busiest locations. A good mobile service is a vital part of a city’s basic infrastructure and while we can achieve good performance across the capital, our data shows networks have some room for improvement when it comes to handling demand in large venues.”

The full London Urban Experience report can be found here.

About RootMetrics

RootMetrics® is an independent mobile analytics firm that offers insights into the consumer mobile experience. RootMetrics provides data on mobile network performance to help people make more informed decisions. RootMetrics offers its RootScore® Report series for major cities across the UK, the UK itself, and the four UK countries, as well as its downloadable CoverageMap app. To ensure that RootMetrics testing reflects real-world mobile usage, testing is conducted based on where, when, and how consumers use their smartphones most often.

About IHS

IHS (NYSE: IHS) is the leading source of insight, analytics and expertise in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape. Businesses and governments in more than 150 countries around the globe rely on the comprehensive content, expert independent analysis and flexible delivery methods of IHS to make high-impact decisions and develop strategies with speed and confidence. IHS has been in business since 1959 and became a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in 2005. Headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, USA, IHS is committed to sustainable, profitable growth and employs about 8,800 people in 32 countries around the world.