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.

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.