In order to understand the performance of UK mobile broadband connections using dongles and datacards, Ofcom commissioned research to identify the average actual download throughput speeds that they deliver, along with a number of other metrics which determine the consumer experience of using mobile broadband services
Key findings from the report
Average mobile broadband speeds
The research, conducted between September and December 2010 in partnership with broadband monitoring specialists Epitiro, found that the average download speed achieved by consumers in Ofcom’s consumer panel survey was 1.5Mbit/s and basic webpages took on average 8.5 seconds to download.
This compares with the average fixed broadband speed of 6.2Mbit/s (Nov/Dec 2010), and average web page download times on fixed broadband networks of less than 0.5 seconds.
However, in good 3G coverage areas, Ofcom found that average mobile broadband speeds were 2.1Mbit/s, falling to an average of 1.7Mbit/s during the peak evening period of 8-10pm. Basic web pages took on average 2.2 seconds to download.
Some mobile broadband providers are faster than others
The research found some differences between the performance of operators’ 3G networks. O2, Vodafone and 3 offered faster average download speeds than T-Mobile and Orange.
O2, on average, delivered web pages faster than the other four operators and had lower average latency than 3, Orange and Vodafone. Latency is a measure of the responsiveness of a connection (it is measured by the time it takes a single packet of data to travel from a user’s PC to a third-party server and back again).
The slower speed of web page downloading on mobile broadband compared to fixed broadband is largely the result of higher levels of latency. In addition to increasing the time for web page downloads, high latency may make connections less suitable for some online games and VoIP.
Differences between locations
The research also looked at how performance varied by location, by testing speeds across Birmingham, in the M62 corridor between Manchester and Liverpool, in Swansea and the surrounding area, and in the rural and semi-rural areas of Herefordshire and Shropshire.
Urban areas outperformed rural areas, primarily due to greater 3G availability. However, performance was highly variable across urban areas, with no guarantee of good performance offered in a city centre location.
Click here to read the full report