Is the UK Lagging Behind in 5G Adoption?

The UK ranks 49th out of 56 when you look at average download speeds per country, falling behind the US, France and Germany. A lot of this could be put down to poor investment from mobile carriers, and the ban on Huawei. This may come as a surprise, seeing as the UK was among some of the first markets to fully launch 5G, with EE leading the charge in 2019. 

Is 5G Critical to the UK Entertainment Market?

5G is critical to the UK entertainment market. 80% of sports fans in the UK use streaming platforms exclusively to watch their favourite teams and the number of active online gamblers currently stands at 24.7 million. This is a 6.2% increase from 2022.

With that in mind, one thing to take note of is that the entertainment sector, although benefitting from 5G, isn’t dependent on it. People who don’t have access to 5G can still stream their favourite sports through Sky Sports, play online slots at Paddy Power and even watch shows on Netflix. Why? Because although 5G offers faster speeds, 4G is more than capable of supporting entertainment as it stands, right now.

Popular slot games that include Legion Gold Unleashed and Gold Strike Jackpot King don’t need a lightning-fast connection to operate, and Netflix reduces the quality of streams to suit your current bandwidth. Even sports streaming providers give pixelate streams when connections drop, meaning that the experience as a whole isn’t interrupted. 5G would certainly provide a better experience, but it’s not necessarily critical to the UK market.

European Markets are Phasing out 3G before 2G

One thing to take note of is that 5G bands are not the only frequency used to deploy 5G. Legacy networks are shutting down but they can still utilise sub-3GHz frequencies for 5G and 4G LTE. With operators in Europe looking to support 2G and phasing out 3G networks first, it’s evident that the upkeep of networks comes with extra cost and complexity.

So far, 21 operators in 11 countries have retired 3G networks, compared to just two 2G shutdowns. 2G is needed to support enterprise contracts with various utility providers, and when you combine this with the fact that operators are now seeing less traffic over 3G networks, it’s not hard to see why decisions like this are being made.

Across Europe, 5G speeds are decreasing too. With increased adoption comes increased congestion. Operators are yet to see the benefit of implementing 5G across the board, especially given the high cost. This indicates that although the UK is lagging behind Europe when it comes to 5G, Europe is starting to slow down as well. 

There’s a global slowdown of 5G in terms of speed and investment, but as widespread adoption rolls out and new technology is implemented, things are bound to pick up over time. Right now, it seems like it’s a slow process as the race for internet equality continues, and providers rush to outcompete each other in terms of user experience.