O2 tops Ofcom mobile broadband survey

Mobile broadband

O2 has topped Ofcom's mobile broadband survey when it comes to speed, the telecoms regulator announced today.

Ofcom released the statistics on networks using dongles and datacards after four months of research in partnership with Epitrio, a broadband monitoring specialist. The tests compared the broadband speed and performance capabilities of O2, Vodafone, 3, T-Mobile and Orange across the UK.

With mobile broadband use on the rise, Ofcom ran 4.2 million tests for accuracy. although smartphone performance was not included in this portion of testing, Ofcom said it plans to extend the research to smartphone broadband performance in the future.

O2, Vodafone and 3 achieved the fastest download speeds, but O2 won the prize for fastest web page delivery due to its lower average latency than 3, Orange and Vodafone. Latency measures the amount of time it takes a single package of data to travel from a PC to a third party and back again, according to Ofcom.

Derek McManus, O2's chief operating officer (COO), boasted about the results of the test on the O2 blog.

"Our customers are seeing the benefit from the huge investment we have made in our network," he said.

"We always aim to deliver the best network experience for our customers and these results are another indicator that we are doing just that."

With the use of a consumer panel survey, the tests concluded the average speed of downloads on mobile broadband network was 1.5Mbps, in comparison to 6.2 Mbps on a fixed broadband network.

Mobile broadband downloaded web pages in 8.5 seconds whilst fixed broadband networks downloaded web pages in 0.5 seconds. Again, the higher latency levels caused the slower downloading capabilities.

However, consumers located in good 3G areas experienced downloading speeds of 2.1 Mbps and web pages took 2.2 seconds to download.

All of these statistics were based on the appearance of text and codes only. Image downloading was not taken into consideration.

Ofcom considered varying factors of mobile broadband use whilst conducting the research. For example, Ofcom found speed and performance decreased in good 3G areas between the peak hours of 8pm and 10pm.

The locations in which the data was collected also varied. It took place in Birmingham within the M62 corridor between Manchester and Liverpool, the surrounding areas of Swansea, the rural and semi-rural areas of Herefordshire and Shropshire, as well as urban areas where the availability of 3G networks is higher.

Ofcom also used three different collection methods, which included static test probes in 97 locations that were tested hourly, drive testing but in stationary positions and the consumer panel of over 1,000 broadband users that tested their mobile broadband speeds four times per day.

With the introduction of 4G networks on their way and the increasing capabilities of smartphones, Ofcom will continue its mobile broadband speed and performance testing.

For now, Ofcom suggests to consider what kind of broadband coverage your provider offers, what purposes the mobile broadband will be used for and where the mobile broadband services will be used when purchasing packages.

The UK's sole use of mobile broadband over fixed broadband has risen three per cent since 2009, with perks such as mobile broadband not requiring a land-line. Providers also offer pay-as-you-go broadband access options, which allows consumers to personalise their mobile broadband access.

However, for better connections and faster downloading with activities that require high levels of responsiveness, Ofcom does still suggest fixed broadband.