Three and Vodafone are closing in on EE in the UK mobile network race, according to analysis by RootMetrics.
RootMetrics performed 646,230 tests across the whole of the UK, assessing operators across the six categories of reliability, speed, data, calls, texts, and overall performance.
The report found that EE was the strongest performer, winning or sharing four UK RootScore Awards, with Three and Vodafone winning or sharing two each.
As well as winning in the overall category, EE came first in speed and data, and joint first with Vodafone for texts.
Three won outright across the UK for reliability and tied with Vodafone for call performance.
Meanwhile, O2 came last in all categories apart from text quality, where it came third.
This represents a significant change since the second half of 2016, in which EE won all six RootScore Awards across the UK.
The latest report also found that while EE was still the overall best-performing operator in England in the first half of 2017, Vodafone claimed the top spot in Northern Ireland and Three in Scotland and Wales. O2 was also found to have performed well in Northern Ireland.
“These latest results have really shaken things up and show the increasing competitiveness in the UK, particularly over the last six months,” said Scott Stonham, General Manager of Europe for RootMetrics. “EE continues to lead the way, but Three and Vodafone are close behind.
“What is clear is that each operator showed strong performance in at least one particular country, while nobody was able to sweep the board at the four-nations level. UK consumers have strong mobile options depending on how and where they use their devices most.”
Ian Fogg, Senior Research Director for mobile and telecom at IHS Markit, said: “To succeed, mobile operators must secure sufficient radio spectrum and invest in the necessary equipment, sites and operational teams to ensure consumers enjoy fast reliable mobile broadband.
“With new UK spectrum allocations soon to be auctioned in the run up to 5G, these performance results provide a snapshot on the competitive balance between the UK mobile operators now, and highlight which operators most need to acquire new spectrum capacity if they are to be a future mobile performance winner.”
As Fogg noted, the results come ahead of a spectrum auction in September which could radically alter the balance of spectrum holdings and allow operators with smaller holdings such as O2 and Three to compete more effectively.
O2 CEO Mark Evans said this week that the company wants to see the auction take place as soon as possible and that it will compete “fiercely”.