Feeds

Ofcom awards fastest 3G mobe-data crown to O2

Says coverage is more important: but doesn't measure it

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Ofcom's report on mobile broadband shows O2 has the UK's fastest 3G network, and Orange the slowest, but highlights that coverage matters a lot more than speed.

Taking average download speeds over a three-month period, O2 comes in just under 3Mb/sec, while Orange languishes at half that – nearer the overall average speed of 1.5Mb/sec. But the overriding factor in connection speeds is the quality of coverage offered locally, and Ofcom still reckons punters should be buying on that basis.

Average speed by operator

We're told that 17 per cent of households are using wireless broadband these days, with 7 per cent relying on it exclusively. Many of those are people who have recently left home, are living in rented accommodation, and don't want the grief of an immobile contract. But unless they're very fortunate, they aren't getting the broadband speeds they need, at least according to Ofcom's figures.

Ofcom's report (83-page PDF/1.3MB, surprisingly hard to read) is based on detailed analysis from 97 fixed locations, all of which apparently had decent 3G signal on all the networks. Epitiro, which carried out the work, also drove around specific areas to see how the signal strength affected the download speed (but no tests were carried out while moving). A thousand volunteers also installed software that tested connection speed four times a day, if the volunteer's PC was switched on at the time.

That totalled 4.3 million data points, which have been put together into a detailed report which compares everything from HTTP latency to DNS lookup times, though few people will get beyond the headline figures of average download speed by operator.

The report reaches conclusions that some might consider obvious: coverage is more important than speed, mobile broadband isn't as fast as fixed broadband (fixed averages at 6.3Mb/sec), 3G connections are faster in cities than in rural areas, mobile connection speed doesn't vary significantly throughout the day – nothing that one couldn't have deduced, but nice to see it all confirmed.

There are some interesting odds and ends, such as a proper look at the image compression used by operators. Only O2 and T-Mobile were caught compressing images for delivery to a desktop computer (smartphones weren't part of the test), but those two operators were squeezing images by as much as 75 per cent, which made browsing seem much faster (although Epitiro allowed for that when calculating the figures).

The report points out that operators' habit of advertising speeds "of up to xxx" is a mockery – though there's no obvious alternative given the highly variable nature of wireless connections.

Coverage isn't considered by the report, despite being identified as the most important factor in download speed. So, all other factors being equal, you'll probably get a faster broadband connection from O2 than anyone else. But there are still many areas of the UK where two tin cans and a piece of string can outperform O2's 3G network, so best check first. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.