UK telecoms watchdog Ofcom published its first research into the performance of mobile broadband in the country, noting that “mobile broadband performance is likely to remain significantly below fixed broadband performance until the rollout of additional spectrum for mobile services in the UK, which is expected to begin in 2013.” Despite the weaker performance when compared to fixed networks, it was noted that 7 percent of households use mobile as their only means of internet access, compared with 3 percent in 2009. Total mobile broadband penetration is at 17 percent of UK households. The survey included more than 4.2 million tests, and focused on access via datacards and dongles, but not smartphones – Ofcom said it is planning further research into the performance of mobile broadband, including handsets, in the future.
According to the research, conducted during September and December 2010, the average download speed encountered was 1.5Mbit/s, and basic webpages took an average of 8.5 seconds to load. This compares with an average fixed broadband speed of 6.2Mbit/s and average webpage load times of less than 0.5 seconds. In “good” coverage areas, mobile broadband speeds increased to 2.1Mbit/s. Ofcom said that “O2, on average, delivered web pages faster than the other four operators and had lower average latency than 3, Orange and Vodafone.” While urban areas generally offered better performance than rural, it was noted that there is “no guarantee of good performance offered in a city centre location.” Ofcom has published a guide for consumers to provide advice on what to consider when choosing a mobile broadband service.