Mobile Broadband: it’s broadband, but not as we know it

With the increase in mobile broadband usage, Ofcom has carried out a series of test to find out how fast it really is. Whereas fixed-line broadband offers average speeds of 6.5 mbits (0.5 seconds for the average web page), mobile has just 1.5 mbits (8.5 seconds for an average web page), although some networks achieved speeds of over 2 mbits. It’s fast enough to be called broadband, but slow when compared to fixed line broadband. O2 came out the best in the studies, and Orange performed the worst (no comment from them). Mobile broadband is on the rise, with 17% of households now using it, and 7% using it exclusively for internet access. Two years ago it was just 3%.

Ofcom concluded that mobile broadband speeds would remain significantly lower than fixed lines until at least 2013, after which new channels will be rolled out.

More on the Ofcom report here.

Fancy a Dongle? We’d rather have a smartphone thanks!

A recent YouGov study has found that people in the UK are no longer insterested in USB dongles for mobile internet. Just 7% of people said they would consider buying one in the future, whereas a year ago it was 14% of those surveyed. In 2008 it was 20% of people.

So what’s changed? For a large part it’s the emergence of the smartphone. With around 35% of the population owning one, more people have access to email, Facebook and other typical mobile activities. The study found that even where smartphone owners also have a dongle, they tend to opt for the handset to conntect to the internet. It would seem that much of that is down to user experience. Mobile optimised apps and web are faster to browse than traditional internet. In 2010 the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, commissioned a series of test to find out how fast dongles really were. Initial results showed that speeds were often similar to dial-up and the ‘broadband’ description was misleading.

How fast is mobile broadband in reality?

Anyone who’se used mobile broadband, either through a USB or mobile phone connection will know that it can be extremely slow and unreliable. Yet the mobile operators would have us think that mobile broadband just whizzes along. Fortunately consumers are not that stupid (mobile operators take note), and have been complaining about the speeds to Ofcom in droves. That has now prompted tests into the real speeds of mobile broadband, to be carried out by Welsh firm, Epitiro. Consumers have also been voting with their feet, or at least their wallets. I blogged in June that mobile broadband sales had plumetted because users found it simply didn’t work very well.
Ofcom tested the fixed line ADSL operators last year and found, surprise, surprise, that the claimed speeds were considerably higher then the reality faced by users. It’s not that hard to predict what the findings will be for mobile broadband speeds.
All of this goes back to the problem of data on mobile networks. Something that I have been writing about for a while. It is the poor and unreliable data connections that are holding back mobile as a truely convergent connected device. O2 has seen the bulk of data problems recently – their 2 million plus iphone users are contstantly updating Their Facebook status, and slowing the data network down to a crawl. As a result the operator has put limits on monthly data usage. However the data problem is unlikely to go away for the other operators. Ofcom’s annual report highlighted some of the problems. Whilst data usage has surged, the opeartor revenues from it have declined.

Mobile broadband sales plumet

A report by the website Broadband Expert has shown that mobile broadband sales in the UK have declined by 57% as the technology fails to live up to consumers’ expectations.
Anyone who has experienced mobile broadband knows that the connection speeds vary from slow to snail-pace. For most, the speeds are similar to those old dial-up connections. Whilst it offers a handy way to get connected outside of home or office, with the growth of Blackberrys and iphones, the need for a remote PC connection has reduced.
At the moment, from a network point of view this is probably a good thing. Many networks are creaking under the strain of people constantly checking Facebook for updates through their phones. So perhaps the drop in mobile broadband connections will have relieve this strain. Of course the drop in sales for the mobile operators is less of a good thing.
The hope is that the roll out of LTE (Long Term Evolution) network connections will give mobile broadband the shot in the arm that it desparately needs.