Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

11:40 AM -- New test results reveal that mobile broadband speeds on HSPA networks in the U.K. fall far short of operators' advertised maximum data rates.

The average mobile data rate in the U.K. is just under 1 Mbit/s (0.9 Mbit/s, to be exact), according to new test results from broadband benchmarking firm Epitiro . That means consumers are getting, on average, 24 percent of operators' advertised data rates, according to the test firm.

From a curmudgeonly point of view, these results look dire and operators should beware of misleading consumers, considering that the advertised "up to" data rates are more than 3 Mbit/s and Vodafone UK , in particular, boasts 3G speeds up to 7.2 Mbit/s. The results also raise questions about how much the U.K. government can rely on mobile networks to meet its Digital Britain goals. (See Britain Botches Broadband.)

But is the mobile broadband glass half-empty or half-full?

Heavy Reading's senior analyst Gabriel Brown thinks the results are great, and he should know. (See Vodafone's Blazin' 3G Upgrade.)

“An average of 1 Mbit/s downlink data rate to the end user on HSPA is fantastic relative to just a couple of years ago. The U.K. market offers some of the most affordable pricing in the world," he says. "Networks need to improve, and they will, but what's offered today is very good. Lower latency and better coverage would provide the most benefit to end users.”

Epitiro tested the broadband user experience for 1,300 users on six networks across the U.K. for six months from December 2008 to May 2009. The devices were USB 3G dongles attached to laptops. The 3G networks tested were from Three UK , Telefónica UK Ltd. , Orange UK , T-Mobile (UK) , Virgin Mobile Telecoms Ltd. , and Vodafone.

The test took measurements every 15 minutes. Interestingly, the average data speed recorded at 3:00 a.m., for example, was 1.8 Mbit/s across the U.K., which suggests that 3G networks are congested during the day and underprovisioned.

"There's not enough bandwidth to go around," says Epitiro executive VP Iain Wood, "[Operators] have to reach for their wallet."

But Wood also notes that network and device performance is steadily improving. During the course of Epitiro's study, there was an 11 percent improvement in download times, for example. "That's encouraging because [operators] would have taken on more customers on the network during that period."

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung

JP Curley 12/5/2012 | 4:03:02 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

I've got a 3G dongle from Telefonica/O2 and consistenly receive no consistency at all. Typically speeds vary between 400 kbps to 800 kbps. One weekend, whilst staying in London with friends, I achieved 1900 kbps regularly. 

lrmobile_crc88 12/5/2012 | 4:02:59 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

Hi Michelle,

Could you make a comparison of test results of Clearwire's WiMAX networks and that of UK 3G networks? That would be interesting




IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 4:02:58 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

Consistently inconsistent – ha. Good one. When you’re out of the cities 3G can be frustrating due to coverage / signal strength.

That’s why I was impressed to see this test report 1 Mbit/s is the *average experience*.

I think my end user experience is colored by living and working in London. I get fantastic service. I've no objection to people makeing it even better.

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 4:02:58 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

Hi Paul,

According to Clearwire, they say average download speeds range from 2-6 Mbit/s, upload speeds are typically 1 Mbit/s, and the system has burst peak download speeds of 10 Mbit/s.


UQ in Japan hasn't provided average data rates for its service yet, but says it confirmed peak rates of 16 Mbit/s on the downlink and 3.9 Mbit/s uplink.


IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 4:02:57 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

@HomeNodeB -- There's some very interesting stuff going on with end users monitoring actual network performance and reporting back statistics for analysis. I can think of a handful of companies working in this area.

You can see how it helps operators. And enterprises wanting SLAs, or at least visibility into what they paying for.

Several different ways of getting the clients onto devices -- guess you need to make sure the sample base is representive, and not just made up of enthusiasts?

Btw people, Mobile 2012 Virtual Event is Today! Register here: http://bit.ly/s7xF9

IPobserver 12/5/2012 | 4:02:57 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

Hi Paul, got any links to genuine end user reviews (or other data) on real world performance of Mobile WiMax?

Also discussing it on this thread.

We have some data direct from operators which is pretty impressive. Not sure it's public yet. And in anycase real world user experience would be interesting.

Mobile WiMax is a next-generation technology, so by definition it would better than 3G, all else being equal, no?

JP Curley 12/5/2012 | 4:02:57 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband


All it needs is for a couple of hundred users from both Clearwire and UQ in Japan to download the http://www.isposure.com application mentioned in the UK Mobile Broadband Report and you begin to get a definitive view of their actual throughput performance.


renkluaf 12/5/2012 | 4:02:56 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

We used to perform this "analysis" between DSL and cable modems way back when.&nbsp; As was the case then, have to wonder if the numbers are actually tracking the wireless "last mile" versus the performance of the various routers and the web-site being accessed?

kashiq 12/5/2012 | 4:01:32 PM
re: Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband

I do not think that this can happen. We have been hearing mobile is going to work in tubes soon. It will be good if they will do it as i have just got my free laptop today from http://www.domesticutilities.c... Some one gave me a leaflet outside underground station for this website and i never knew that you get free laptop with it. Its a mini compaq very nice laptop. I can not wait to use it in the underground now. LOL

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