Despite all the hype around 4G, mobile internet services in the UK are amongst the slowest in Western Europe, slower than in France, Italy and Germany, according to research.

Last year, the average achieved download speed of a mobile internet connection in the UK was 5mbps. For comparison, in France the average measured mobile internet speed was 8.4mbps, in Germany it was 6.1mbps, in Spain 4.7mbps and in Italy 5.4mbps.

Mobile broadband speeds in the UK are amongst the lowest in Western Europe © iStock/Predrag Vuckovic
Mobile broadband speeds in the UK are amongst the lowest in Western Europe © iStock/Predrag Vuckovic

The results are based on measurements taken by ordinary British mobile phone users using Netradar, a free mobile application to measure mobile connections and devices. When using the application, users are presented with data about the quality of their connectivity.

Simultaneously, this data is uploaded anonymously to the Netradar database. The Impartial Netradar application is developed and globally run by Aalto University in Finland.

People who have the fastest mobile internet connections in Europe live in Denmark (22.3mbps), followed by Switzerland (16.6mbps) and Norway (14.8mbps). The slowest mobile internet is in Ukraine (0.3mbps), Bosnia and Herzegovina (1mbps) and Moldova (1.8mbps).

There are also big differences when people use different British operators, found Netradar. British mobile phone users experienced the fastest mobile internet connections when using Three's network in 2014. Three's average downlink speed in users' measurements was 6.3mbps, and T-Mobile's was 5.6mbps. Vodafone saw speeds of 4.9mbps, while Orange achieved 3.6mbps. O2 only saw speeds of 3.1mbps.

“Mobile internet speed depends not only on mobile network operators, but also on used devices, speed limitations in the subscriptions, a user's distance from the operator's antenna, landscape, available radio technologies and how congested the mobile network is,” said professor Jukka Manner, leader of the Netradar project at Aalto University.

The free Netradar app measures mobile network quality in terms of download and upload speed, latency and signal strength, network problems and the performance of individual brands of smartphones and tablets. Mobile device users can download the Netradar app for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Nokia X, Meego, Symbian and Jolla/Sailfish.

So far, the Netradar app has been installed almost 200,000 times. The database currently holds five million measurements globally.