Why Vodafone is live testing our network at popular events

December 17, 2018

By Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK


When you’re in a big crowd livestreaming your favourite sports team or band, the last thing you should be thinking about is network congestion. But your upload and download speeds can slow down dramatically when lots of people connect to the network at the same time.

We want to be sure that Vodafone customers can share, post and livestream to their hearts’ content. That’s why our Network team has been carrying out live tests at popular events where there are huge crowds. The information we collect helps us to identify improvements we can make in future.

This year, Vodafone customers uploaded an average of around 120% more data over 4G than last year at events ranging from the Epsom Derby to BBC Proms in the Park. In fact, Vodafone mobile users at BBC Proms in the Park uploaded over 230% more data over 4G when compared with the previous year – the biggest increase of all the major events that we tracked this year. As more and more people use livestreaming platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope, it’s likely that the amount of data the Vodafone network carries over 4G will continue to grow.

Live testing the Network

To carry out a live test, a member of the Vodafone Network team will stop at between five and eight locations at the event, targeting crowded spots. These can include the train station closest to the event, the entrance, places where people are queueing for food and refreshments, and so on.

Our tests focus on key metrics such as upload and download speeds. We also collect statistics like the volume of data carried over 4G, and benchmark how our network performs compared with our competitors. This is done using devices fitted with SIM cards that connect to all four major networks. The metrics we use help us to identify improvements we can make, whether that’s optimising an existing mast so that it covers an area that’s currently under-served, or adding a temporary mast to a specific location to boost coverage and capacity.

To test speeds, our tester checks how long it takes to download and upload a 10MB file. We wait 20 seconds between each test. Afterwards, we compile a database to compare Vodafone’s network performance against other networks. I’m really proud to say that at many of this year’s biggest events, such as Wimbledon, the Wireless Festival and BBC Proms in the Park, our internal benchmarking tests show that the Vodafone network performed better than our competitors.

Recently, the public voted us the UK’s Best Mobile Network at the Trusted Reviews Awards.¹ We’re determined to live up to that title wherever our customers connect to the Vodafone network – whether they’re at home, at work, or out and about at big events. With the help of live testing, we aim to be the network of choice when it matters most.


Notes to Editors

  1. As of 09.11.2018, readers of Trusted Reviews voted Vodafone as the winner of the Best UK Mobile Network of the Year. See Vodafone.co.uk/networks for more Network news.