Milestone Moments Report– How Live Streaming Saved Brits from Lockdown Isolation

Highlighting a pronounced shift towards sharing key life moments with loved ones via livestreaming platforms, Global Wireless Solutions’ analysis sheds light on how livestreams saved UK citizens from lockdown isolation and changed the way they share milestone moments with each other forever.

In March 2020 the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, triggering many countries to implement lockdowns and forbid unnecessary social contact - international travel was frozen, parties were cancelled, and everyday interactions were forced to find a new virtual home. This report offers an unparalleled look into the trend that followed in the UK: a proliferation of virtual streaming services which played host to everything from water cooler chats to graduation ceremonies across the country. These mediums offered much needed respite in our isolation and a sense of togetherness at a time when we could not have been further apart.

What is remarkable, however, is that the findings of this report point to a simple broader conclusion for the future. The sharing of key life moments – or Milestone Moments – via mobile video calls and streams is a trend that is set to continue even as restrictions ease. Whilst it was the global pandemic that brought about a boom in livestreaming, people are not planning to turn their backs on this newfound ability to quickly share meaningful moments with loved ones digitally. However, consumers are also concerned that their phone’s connectivity capabilities are not keeping up with this shift to online livestreaming. Many consumers reported a distorted experience with poor sound quality or stop-start visuals, leading some to question the inclusive nature of sharing milestone moments online.

Fortunately, UK consumers are also aware that the ongoing deployment of 5G and its increased availability across the UK will improve the connection capabilities and the ease with which we can share milestone moments virtually. Whilst our data clearly shows an eagerness to continue to utilise virtual streaming services to share life events, it also points to an awareness that 5G will help them to do just that.

Data in this report was obtained by GWS through quantitative consumer polling with Censuswide. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 17th November and 10th December 2021. The survey included over 2,000 respondents and was carried out online using smartphones. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

GWS also conducted direct benchmark testing in all areas of the UK from October to December 2021. GWS drove 33 markets and 15 motorways throughout the UK during the testing process, resulting in the completion of over a million individual controlled tests.

GWS’ collection and evaluation of data was conducted using Rhode & Schwarz test equipment, smartphones, and GWS’ MobiStat data evaluation and reporting platform.

If interested in further report details, trends or analysis, please contact us at

The shift to virtual streaming services to socialise and share moments together has been capitalised upon by several key players. Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams and Zoom are the big winners of the pandemic’s boom in live streaming, with around 30% of respondents saying they use them more now than they did before:

Facebook Messenger: 31% of respondents use it more today
Facetime: 23%
Microsoft Teams: 29%
Zoom: 31%
YouTube Live: 16%
TikTok Live: 15%

These livestream and video call providers saw a sharp growth through the pandemic as Brits used the technology for a variety of different events:

• 10% (1 in 10) attended a wedding remotely over live stream
• 13% attended a birthday remotely
• 12% attended a funeral remotely

The data also showed that 6% of people witnessed a birth over livestream during the pandemic – this jumps up to 12% for 18-24 year olds, and 14% for Edinburgh residents! The virtual world was also a popular destination for gender reveal parties – of the quarter of Brits who attended one during the pandemic, 30% did so remotely.

There is also a clear generational divide when it comes to attending milestone moments via livestream, with 18-24s most likely to say they have attended any kind of event via livestream, and over 55s the least likely to say they have done the same. The notable exception to this trend is attendance of funerals - 13% of over 55s attended a funeral virtually compared to 12% of 18-24 year olds. This was the only category where the oldest age groups reported attendance exceeded the young albeit not by much.

In the case of every milestone moment, men were significantly more likely than women to say they have attended events remotely during the pandemic. Of those surveyed who attended a wedding, 31% attended remotely and 68% of those were men. Similarly, 36% of those who attended an engagement party did so remotely and, once again, 71% of them were men.

Looking forward, this shift to utilising video call or livestream services to celebrate events and connect with loved ones is set to continue. For instance, more than 1 in 10 people plan to attend birthdays and funerals remotely in the coming year. University graduations are most likely to be attended remotely in the coming year, with 54% of people planning to attend a graduation saying they will do so remotely (12% in total). Remote weddings also remain within the plans of many: 41% of those planning to attend a wedding plan to do so virtually.

Can our phones handle our embrace of virtual celebrations?

Now that we’re living ‘hybrid’ lifestyles, with events taking place in the real and digital worlds concurrently, it’s important that our phones can keep up with demand. This is all the more important given consumers expressed a desire for this trend to continue over the next year. However, numerous technological factors held back online celebrations and milestone moments from achieving their desired aim: a sense of social inclusivity even with separation.

Of those who attended milestone moment events via livestream, 16% said they found the event difficult to follow or understand what was happening, and 12% said the picture/sound quality was poor, which affected their ability to feel part of the event.

But significant disparities existed in the experience consumers had when streaming or partaking in events online depending on their network. Over half (51%) of O2 customers say they have no issues at all when livestreaming from their mobile phone; only 37% of Three customers and 42% for both EE and Vodafone customers said the same.

O2 customers are also least likely to report any specific issues when livestreaming, including ‘sound and picture out of sync’ (16% vs 21% on average across all operators), ‘picture juddering or stop-starting’ (14% vs 19%), and ‘stream completely freezing’ (19% vs 23%).

Of the eight specific livestreaming issues GWS asked about, Vodafone customers had the most complaints in 4 out of the 8 issues, Three in 3 of 8, and EE in 1.

5G future coming into view for Brits

For all the negative publicity around potential negative health risks of 5G, only 3% of Brits say this is a concern for them. In fact, Brits are increasingly excited by the prospect of 5G and feel it will be crucial to support the new ways we communicate and socialise online. ‘Keeping in touch with friends and family’ is the area of life where most people think 5G will have the biggest impact (22%), followed by gaming (21%) then work and entertainment (both at 16%). Just 20% of those surveyed don’t think 5G will have any impact on their lives.

A further 28% of consumers say they are “excited about the launch of 5G and the reliability it promises”. This number goes up to 35% in the 18-24 age bracket, and as high as 39% and 40% respectively for those living in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Fortunately for all consumers, network reliability is set to see a significant boost as the ongoing deployment of 5G powers on. Recent GWS drive testing showed that three of the four major operators have doubled their nationwide 5G coverage in comparison to last year (EE’s 5G coverage increased approximately 120%, O2’s 260%, Three’s 150%, and Vodafone’s 90%).

Consumer excitement for network connectivity with greater reliability was also reflected when consumers were asked what aspects of mobile network performance was most important to them. Most consumers (over 50%) chose either calls connecting, call quality, or data reliability (enabling uninterrupted browsing) as their top priorities for performance. And operators understand the importance of a high performing, reliable network – currently in the nation’s capital, GWS network testing found that O2 just edges out EE, Three and Vodafone in terms of providing the most reliable voice and data network.

Despite excitement from many consumers regarding the promise of 5G, many are still somewhat unconvinced by the performance of 5G to date. Just 35% of Brits with 5G-enabled phones are completely satisfied with the 5G coverage provided by their mobile operator vs. 2% that are not satisfied at all.

5G users in Liverpool are most likely to say they are completely satisfied (65%), with only 6% of users in Brighton saying the same.

On a positive note, GWS drive testing shows the 5G deployment has made significant progress over the past year. Last year GWS devices connected to 5G between 40-56% of the time across all operators, compared to just 10-25% the previous year, easily doubling the 5G connectivity.

GWS testing also shows that 5G has been deployed in 30 markets or more for customers on O2, Three and EE, while only 25 for those on Vodafone. There are a total of 23 markets where all 4 operators have 5G (based on more than 2% in a market), and out of the 33 markets tested, only Armagh did not have 5G for any operator.

During testing, GWS also noticed new 5G channels in the network vs. last year's drive. In particular, EE and O2 have launched a 2nd 5G channel in the 3500MHz band; also, O2, EE and Three were all showing a small amount of 5G presence in the 700MHz band. In addition, tests found a small amount of 5G coverage on a 15MHz channel in the 2100 band for EE.


The conclusion of these tests is clear: 5G continues to spread throughout the UK. This is good news for those consumers wishing to use livestream or video call services to share Milestone Moments.

About Global Wireless Solutions, Inc.

For most consumers today, their mobile device is their life’s remote control. As the world’s largest independent mobile insights consulting firm, GWS measures every aspect of how people live, work and play via their mobile devices – as well as how mobile network performance affects them.

Combining our market-leading network benchmarking technology and methodology with deep behavioural data, we help businesses and organisations to drive innovation and deliver better customer experiences through mobile insights, anywhere in the world. Championing the needs of mobile users by understanding and testing the things that matter to them, we’ve evolved our technology and services in step with the needs of industry and consumers for over 25 years.

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