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The UK cities most reliant on mobile data according to Uswitch study

Uswitch mobiles latest analysis looks at where in the UK people require internet access, the reliability, and availability of mobile data and broadband to them.

While the majority of the population relies on fast and reliable internet access, in some areas broadband providers are few and far between. Therefore, mobile data reliance can become essential, with network coverage becoming a valuable perk of areas throughout the UK in order to carry out day-to-day work and stay connected to the outside world.


Data reliance amongst cities will fluctuate, due to many factors including the quality of broadband coverage, commuting time and how many people visit the area, who will naturally not have a wifi connection or be relying on non-secure or poor hotel wifi connection. In areas with slower broadband speed and fewer providers such as Newry in Northern Ireland, ensuring the best data coverage to stay connected is essential.

Therefore, out of all 10 of the cities ranked as the lowest data reliant cities in the study, Stirling is the only city that currently offers 5G coverage by all four of the major networks. While the max broadband speed for 7 of 10 of the cities is below 1000 Mbps, by focusing on coverage in these cities, residents will naturally become more data reliant, being able to replace poor broadband speeds with data when needed.

The study’s rankings were based upon the percentage of residents who access internet, availability of 5G coverage, availability of broadband providers and the average speed of broadband connection in each location.


Rank City % of population that used internet in past 3 months No of 5G networks available Max broadband speed (Mbps) Typical speed range (max) (Mbps) Typical speed range (min) (Mbps) No. of available broadband providers Data reliance score (out of 100)
1 Brighton & Hove 97.70% 3 1763 193 46 27 86.2
2 Coventry 96.80% 4 3657 148 46 19 82.1
3 London (inc. City of) 94.90% 4 5156 191 48 79 81.8
4 Portsmouth 96.50% 4 1136 225 61 18 81.0
5 Oxford 96.50% 3 3014 161 42 32 80.3
6 Southend-on-Sea 96.30% 4 4560 201 41 15 77.5
7 Bristol 94.70% 4 1511 214 53 24 75.7
8 Chichester 96.70% 4 1144 124 36 32 74.8
9 Winchester 95.70% 4 1143 144 39 39 73.2
10 Dundee 96.10% 4 942 203 45 13 71.1

With 97.7% of the population using the internet in the past three months, yet a lower available number of broadband providers, Brighton & Hove residents rely on mobile data coverage more than anywhere else in the UK, based upon their data reliance score.

Similarly, Coventry is the second most data-reliant city. Residents have fewer broadband providers to choose from and lower maximum speeds, despite 96.8% of the population relying on the internet. However, residents in Coventry have access to 5G coverage from the main four network providers (O2, Vodafone, Three and EE), which is still not fully available at a national scale across the UK.

Dundee is the only Scottish city to appear in the top ten most data-reliant cities. With only 13 available broadband providers and a lower than average maximum broadband speed, residents of Dundee have a high demand for internet access but good availability of 5G coverage across the four major providers.


Rank City % of population that used internet in past 3 months No of 5G networks available Max broadband speed (Mbps) Typical speed range (max) (Mbps) Typical speed range (min) (Mbps) No. of available broadband providers Data reliance score (out of 100)
1 Durham 84.90% 3 941 73 33 15 9.9
2 Stirling 86.50% 4 937 66 25 11 10.1
3 Armagh 85.50% 2 932 141 39 13 13.0
4 Perth 86.50% 3 1135 131 32 12 15.4
5 Hereford 89.50% 2 940 71 33 18 17.5
6 Truro 90.00% 2 942 74 30 18 19.4
7 Newry 90.40% 2 927 136 32 12 21.4
8 Exeter 89.20% 2 1105 101 32 23 21.6
9 Lincoln 87.60% 3 1109 101 33 23 21.6
10 Wrexham 90.20% 2 937 139 35 13 22.4

With the lowest percentage of the population using the internet in the past three months, Durham is the least data-reliant city in the UK. Despite low demand, internet connectivity in Durham ranked as some of the poorest, with low broadband speeds and a small number of available providers compared to the rest of the country. Although Durham is a bustling university town, the average age of residents is one of the highest in the country with 21.3% of the population in retirement age[2].

Ultimately, for the majority of Brits, internet connectivity for both broadband and mobile varies greatly depending on location. For cities with a huge demand for fast and reliable internet, availability of 5G coverage on mobile is more important to ensure residents can maintain a reasonable connection.

In locations such as Truro, Cornwall, the maximum broadband speed on average is under 1000 Mbps (megabytes per second) and only two of the major networks (EE and Three) offer 5G coverage at present. Whilst the population is one of the lowest in terms of internet usage, that’s still below average connectivity for 90% of Truro’s population who are more regular internet users.

If you have a handset that’s 5G compatible and live in a 5G coverage area, one of the best current deals on Uswitch for 5G coverage is from Three. It offers 25GB of data for £8 a month.

Uswitch’s mobile expert Rehan Ali comments:

“Brighton & Hove has emerged as the most mobile data reliant city in the UK, with its residents relying heavily on the internet for work, leisure and communication more than anywhere else in the UK. With a thriving digital economy it’s no surprise that demand for the internet surpasses many other towns and cities around the country.

Our findings show that a larger percentage of residents in Brighton will rely on mobile data more than others. Whilst the city has been quick to adopt 5G coverage, providing its residents with faster and more reliable connectivity, it still doesn’t have full coverage across the major providers.”

On the other hand, Durham, which has been ranked as the least data reliant city, still lags behind in terms of broadband speeds and access to 5G coverage. The study found that a lower percentage of residents in Durham accessed the internet compared to other cities and the average speed of broadband connection is slower than the national average.

This research highlights the urgent need to bridge the digital divide and ensure equal access to fast and reliable connectivity across the country. Despite being the city with the least requirement for internet access, it’s vital that no one is left behind due to their geographical location, cellular infrastructure or broadband availability and affordability.”

To look for the best coverage possible, there are multiple affordable SIM only deals offered by the main providers. Three and O2 offer 5G coverage across the majority of the UK, with most locations having at least two providers offering 5G.

Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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