EE, Three stretching ahead of O2, Vodafone in UK market, Rootmetrics claims

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The UK is becoming a two-tier mobile market, with quality split between EE and Three at the high end, and O2 and Vodafone at the bottom, new research has claimed.

Research firm RootMetrics' latest exploration of the UK mobile market has seen EE score highest as the best operator in the country. It scored highly for speed and reliability, with an overall ranking of 89.4, and also finished top for data, calling and text quality.

The UK's biggest mobile player had greater data reliability thanks to its growing 4G footprint, Rootmetrics said. Its 600th town and 6,000 village went live on its 4G network this week.

Three finished second in five out of six categories, running close to EE for reliability. It had an overall score of 84.7. However, Rootmetrics noted Three's strong performance for speed is under pressure from rivals.

Vodafone was noted to have improved its overall performance, thanks to its high profile Project Spring network improvement project, and finished in second place for network speed. It has an overall score of 74.5, with Rootmetrics dubbing it a network to watch.

[Read more: Exclusive: Vodafone UK's head of mobile networks defends performance]

In last place was O2, which finished in came in or tied for last in five out of the six categories. It had a score of 72.7, although Rootmetrics noted its reliability should improve as its 4G network expands.

Rootmetrics also held tests in the four nations of the United Kingdom, with EE winning 21 of 24 awards outright. It noted that with no awards won in any individual nation, there was a "clear separation" in performance between EE and Three versus O2 and Vodafone.

Chris Smith, RootMetrics General Manager for Europe, said: “EE is continuing to come out on top for mobile performance, but there is a heated – and often close – battle with the other operators. Our growing reliance on our mobiles means network performance has a direct impact on our daily lives, and consumers deserve a comprehensive, unbiased, real-world picture of performance. From watching video on the go to taking part in Whatsapp conversations, we’re on our phones and when our connection is lousy, we notice."

Rootmetrics conducted the tests at different times of the day, while driving and at stationary outdoor locations, as well as 1,500 indoor spots.