Brits Bask in Mobile Broadband
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