4G phone network loses nearly half its speed in past year

Which? claims service is degrading

Faster speeds expected by millions of mobile phone users on 4G networks have almost halved over the past year, according to a new report by the consumer group Which?

The growing demand on mobile networks means it now takes twice as long to download something as it would have done a year ago, it says.

Average speeds at which people can download on 4G networks have fallen from 19 megabits per second (Mbps) in September 2013 to 10.16Mbps in August.

And there are big differences in coverage and speeds across the country, according to the analysis of Britain’s four mobile phone networks (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone) by Which? in conjunction with mobile coverage experts OpenSignal.

Overall, London ranks best for network coverage, with Wales the worst, according to the analysis of the 3G and 4G mobile signals of more than 39,000 people. Three offers the best 3G coverage, with Vodafone users experiencing the poorest; but when it comes to 4G, Vodafone users have the fastest speeds with Three the slowest. And in terms of actual 4G coverage, EE comes top.

While six million people are now using 4G, less than three quarters of the country has access to it. Britain’s mobile network operators aim to reach 98 per cent of the population by the end of 2015.

Richard Lloyd, the executive director of Which?, said: “We’ve looked at consumers’ real-life experiences and found big differences in service.

“We’re calling on providers to publish the reliability and speeds their networks actually achieve so people can make an informed choice before signing on the dotted line.”

Samuel Johnston, head of marketing at OpenSignal, said he hoped the report would help consumers “better understand how the networks differ in terms of speed and real-world coverage”.

A spokesperson for O2 described the report as representing “a fraction of our 23 million customers”.

“The Which? research shows O2 customers achieving over 10Mb per second on average,” the spokesperson said, adding it was fast enough to carry HD video.