EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 were tested on web speeds, call performance, network reliability and text performance by research firm RootMetrics.
Vodafone came up short in all four categories, while EE consistently took first place. Three came in second, while O2 ranked third. However, runner-up Three made the biggest leap in performance to keep pace with EE in almost all categories, particularly on mobile internet.
Vodafone last year announced that it would spend £1bn upgrading its UK network. The network has some way to go to catch up with the competition, according to RootMetrics, especially on mobile web. EE scored 86 out of a possible 100 on mobile internet performance, while Three followed with 83, and O2 and Vodafone lagged behind with 68 and 67 respectively.
The report said: "It was a two-horse race in our mobile internet category, with EE and Three separating themselves from O2 and Vodafone.
"While there was a noticeable drop-off between the top and bottom networks in mobile internet performance, O2 and Vodafone both improved their performances substantially."
Vodafone argued that customers were already noticing an improvement as it rolled out infrastructure upgrades and 4G services.
A spokesman said: "We are modernising the network with the very latest technology, building thousands of new outdoor sites and deploying hundreds of indoor coverage solutions.
"This investment has already delivered an improved service for customers across the country and we expect their experience to get significantly better as the momentum of our Project Spring investment, combined with our better quality spectrum, accelerates over the next year."
O2 pointed out that its own testing, conducted by Spirent Communications between May and July this year, placed it considerably higher on call quality and mobile data. The network ranked first for voice calls in 17 of 20 cities tested, and first for mobile internet in 12 out of 20 cities tested.
A company statement said: "As we continue to roll out our 4G service and modernise our 2G and 3G networks at the same time, the results from the Spirent survey demonstrate that our investment of £1.5 billion over the next three years will help us to deliver faster speeds and greater coverage across the UK, ensuring our customers continue to have a great network experience,".
It is likely that the competition will get tighter as the four networks continue to roll out 4G, with EE likely to lose its first-mover advantage.
Bryn Jones, Three’s chief technology officer, said: "A reliable network is an essential part of delivering an enjoyable experience for our customers.
"We've invested heavily to ensure our customers can rely on a consistent service and as our 4G rollout progresses, we will continue to focus on delivering the best mobile experience possible."