Back in 2015, smartphones took over for laptops as the most popular device for UK consumers to get online, according to research from British communications regulator Ofcom. It’s no wonder that consumers expect to be able to use their mobile devices for a range of activities in all kinds of locations – from watching their favorite Netflix shows on the way to work to downloading new exercise routines at the gym and everything in between.

This is why, when benchmarking mobile networks, we keep real-life consumer experience at the core of our testing. Our OneScore measurement is the first ranking of mobile network performance that takes into account both in-depth network testing as well as the wireless services that consumers believe are the most important to them. This helps bridge the gap between operator claims and consumer expectations, providing a real understanding of how each network performs when being used for day-to-day activities.

Recently, we applied OneScore to our first UK nationwide mobile network test, to benchmark the geographical and functional differences between the big four mobile operators in the UK. Nearly one million data and voice task tests were conducted to evaluate the network performance of O2, EE, Three and Vodafone in 17 major cities across the UK. Testing was done using the iPhone6s and the Samsung S6.

What we found is that each network has different strengths in different areas, as well as locations. While EE can claim overall and mobile data wins, the best network for voice quality and call performance was Three. O2, meanwhile, was crowned ‘King in the North’ thanks to its 4G performance in the northern cities that were tested.

This was an important milestone for GWS, as it is the first time Android and iOS devices have been tested together, helping us better understand the mobile experience of 97% of UK consumers.

Overall, a key observation from this nationwide test is that for consumers and businesses alike, the question of “which network is best” is nuanced by where they live, what they use their phone for and even the phone they choose to use. The good news is that with our advanced methods in benchmarking, we have been able to shed some light into overall UK network performance, helping users make better informed choices regarding which mobile network best suits their needs.