The speed challenge – Three Ultrafast vs EE 4G

Now that the 4G auction is well under way we are starting to see networks mention the LTE technology in advertising. Two networks are making big noises about data currently – Three and EE.

EE have already rolled out 4G to a sizeable chunk of the UK – 45% of UK population is covered and Three will follow later this year. Three have announced that the 4G technology isn’t going to cost more to use, but in the meantime Three are keen to promote their DC-HSDPA network as ‘Ultrafast’.


Today we had plenty of time to spare, a train ticket to Bristol (which is one of the 4G locations), a HTC One XL with an EE SIM, a Sony Xperia T (which is DC-HSDPA) and a Three SIM……

Time for a head-to-head challenge! :)

The speed challenge   Three Ultrafast vs EE 4GThe speed challenge   Three Ultrafast vs EE 4G

During the trip to Bristol a series of videos were recorded using the phones and put together into a single long video which you can see below. We performed 5 speed tests at different locations and times. These were compared to each other and we decided to demo the highly impressive upload capabilities that 4G gives over 3G.

We received mixed results through the day with 4G only really showing what it’s capable of at the last minute. It hit at an impressive 43Mbps download and over 20Mbps upload.  The biggest change between the two technologies was on the upload side of things with 4G getting around 20Mbps nearly all the time against only 2 to 3Mbps upload over 3G.

Although most people concentrate on download, upload is just as important as this lets you upload photos to Facebook, videos to YouTube and also to send large attachments via email.

Speed and coverage will depend on many things from handset to location so everyone will have their own experience. This test should not be seen as what everyone will get, but it’s interesting to see some ‘real world’ expectations away from network testing centres.

So whilst 4G was faster overall for both download and upload, is it worth the additional premium cost you have to pay at the moment to get this?  

Leave comments below and discuss. :)

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  • Anonymous

    When and where it works the LTE from EE is quite impressive, especially in the uplink speeds as demonstrated. This was a nice demonstration of LTE and 3G working alongside at various locations. It pretty much shows what can be expected of the networks rather than the headline figures being bandied around by the marketing departments.

  • Horatio Nelson

    Not quite an apples vs apples comparison as EE’s 4g network is pretty much unloaded due to relatively few subscribers, where as currently 3UK’s 3g network in some areas is running at max capacity. The poor EE download speeds will have been due to the fact that the 4G shares the same backhaul as the co-located 3g. If 3g is busy then 4g will suffer. It may have been a better representation to also run an EE/TMuk 3g handset at the same time given that around 98% of EE’s 3g sites are also 3UK. This would have given a reflection of EE’s 4g/3g compared to 3UK’s DCHSPA.

  • Callum

    On my iPhone 5 on 3 I consistently get above 10Mbps almost everywhere with reasonable coverage, sometimes up to 20Mbps (down). Thing is, that’s 3G and EE’s 4G LTE is just too expensive for what you get, it’s also pretty slow in most places. Anyway, 3’s getting LTE later this year and it won’t cost any extra. I noticed both the phones were lagging during the speedtest (especially the Sony), that could’ve affected it.

  • das

    since i get 10 -20mbit on threes 3g and its unlimited for only £11 a month ,EE can go fuck themselves