Feeds

UK mobile broadband carriers compared

Network vs network

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

Product Roundup

Reg Hardware Mobile Broadband Week

Two years ago, I plugged a selection of 3G dongles into my laptop at various locations to see what the coverage and speed offered by the major mobile networks was like. You can see the results here, but with HSPA being introduced at ever higher upload and download speeds, it's time to compare them afresh.

Cellular antenna. Source: Vxla/Flickr

Source: Vxla/Flickr

Last time, I also tested Virgin, which uses T-Mobile’s network, as well as the Big Five. This year, I decided to try Giffgaff, which relies on O2 to haul the coal. Giffgaff seems to be the favoured option for those who think that the major networks data offerings are too expensive and too Byzantine.

I’ve made another couple of changes from 2010. Then I used the supplied USB modem dongles from each carrier. This time I used a single ZTE MF60 portable 3G router to ensure all the networks were tested with exactly the same hardware.

Of course, when Mr Editor Sir asked me to do the speed tests back in 2010 I thought it’d be the for the first and last time. Surely, LTE would hove into view and usher a brave new dawn of super-fast data downloading? Like heck it did.

I asked all the cellcos about their 4G/LTE roll-out plans. Everything Everywhere reckoned it stood like greyhounds in the slips, while the others opined that until the Government works out WTF it’s doing with the spectrum auctions there was little they could tell me.

O2 coverage map 2012 Vodafone coverage map 2012
Three coverage map 2012 Orange coverage map 2012

Current coverage: Clockwise from top left, O2, Vodafone, Orange and Three

As before, tests were carried out using speedtest.net. Yes, I know it’s a wee bit basic and dirty, but it provides a level playing field and allows for rapid tests to iron out any freak spikes and anomalies.

The good news is I got HSPA connectivity wherever I went, and all the networks have taken a step forward since 2010 in terms of outright speed. For some - step forward, O2 - it's only a small step, however.

The essential guide to IT transformation

Next page: Networks compared

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
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.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.