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Ofcom begins mobile broadband study

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Ofcom wants to know just how broad mobile broadband is, and has commissioned a four-month study of the subject with a full report expected to go public next January.

The UK regulator has appointed Cardiff-based Epitiro to carry out a study of the UK's mobile operators, logging average connection speeds and latency on 3G networks, so we can see the kind of service customers are getting and compare it to what they were promised.

Epitiro will carry out the study using fixed and moving laptops running detailed analysis tools, supplemented by self-selected volunteers who download its software-based monitoring package (which is also used to compile fixed-broadband data).

That's the same methodology the company used to compile its first report on mobile broadband, published last year. That report (pdf) was a PR play, and a successful one given that the company has now landed the Ofcom contract. The new study will be larger, and will include analysis of using mobile broadband whilst in a moving vehicle, but most critically it should name the operators involved.

The last report was concerned with averages, establishing that mobile broadband users got around 24 per cent of the bandwidth advertised, but it also showed huge differences between the networks in packet loss and latency, without revealing which networks did worst. Epitiro won't promise to reveal the names this time around, but it will provide un-obfuscated data to Ofcom who is generally happy to share.

The last report covered six network operators, including Virgin who were advertising a different connection speed at the time despite being a virtual operator (Virgin owns no network infrastructure). Since then the landscape has changed rather, with Orange and T-Mobile in the process of merging to create a combined network for Everything Everywhere, which will also be shared with 3. That could leave the UK with only three national networks within a few years, and no doubt provide operators with explanations should their performance not be up to scratch when the report is published in January. ®

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