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O2 claims win in UK mobile broadband speed test

But results not so clear cut

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A survey of UK mobile broadband speeds commissioned by O2 gives the carrier the thumbs up for network performance.

The "comprehensive" survey was carried out for O2 by Siroda, a radio engineering, measurement and benchmarking consultancy that's been doing the sort of thing for 20-odd years. And both firms insisted the data had been independently verified by the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications (BABT).

BABT was originally the UK government organisation responsive for checking that phone equipment was suitable for use on what, when privatised, became British Telecom's landline network. BABT was also eventually sold, and is now part of German testing combine Tüv Süd. These days it also hands out IMEI numbers to handset makers.

Back to the survey, and Siroda measured music file download speeds in the UK's 20 largest cities during January. It also timed how long it took to call up a set web page. Tests were carried out throughout the day, between 10am and 10pm, seven days a week in order, Siroda said, to replicate "genuine user patterns".

For music downloads, O2 yielded the fastest download speed in 12 cities. Vodafone came second, scoring the top slot in five locations. T-Mobile won out in two places, Three in one. Orange never led the rest, Siroda said.

But it did better in web page load times, coming top in four cities. As did O2 and T-Mobile. Vodafone led, delivering the best speed in five cities, while Three was true to its name by leading in three.

What this last test shows is that there's really not much in it. O2 was quick to point out that London was one the place where it delivered the fastest web page transfer speed, 1.7 seconds, and that was 30 per cent faster than its slowest rival.

That not only means that the slow one transferred the page in 1.3 seconds - and four tenths of a second isn't going to worry too many folk, we suspect - but the other three networks were even closer to O2's time.

Siroda didn't say which web page was used, the size of the music file downloaded, or provide bandwidth values so we can't see how well actual megabytes per second readings match the maxima the carriers like to quote. Nor did it provide location-specific results, alas.

And then there's the urban-centric nature of the survey. What's the experience for punters who don't live in the major conurbations, we wonder? ®

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