Mobile broadband provided by O2 loads web pages faster than any other network in the UK, research into the performance of mobile broadband across the UK by Ofcom suggests.
O2, on average, delivered web pages faster than 3, Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile, 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).
Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, conducted consumer research involving more than 4.2m tests and the measurement of average speeds, as well as the performance of the five mobile operators in areas of good 3G network coverage.
This research looked specifically at the performance of mobile networks using dongles and datacards.
Among the research findings: 17pc of UK households are using mobile broadband to access online services, with 7pc using it as their only means of internet access, compared to 3pc in 2009.
The research, conducted between September and December 2010 in partnership with broadband monitoring specialists Epitiro, found the average download speed achieved by consumers was 1.5Mbit/s and basic web pages 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 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.
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.
The most important factor affecting mobile broadband performance is coverage, and consumers should check with their provider how good the coverage is likely to be before buying a service.
Mobile broadband performance is likely to remain significantly below fixed broadband performance until the roll out of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, which is expected to begin in 2013. The new spectrum will provide much needed capacity for the fourth generation (4G) of mobile technology, set to deliver significantly faster mobile broadband services.