Mobile broadband - much promised, little delivered

Mobile broadband providers in the UK are advertising high download rates but delivering less than a quarter of the speed, according to new study based on over 3,300 mobile broadband speed tests conducted between March and August 2009.

The survey, conducted by the comparison site Broadband Expert, claimed that mobile operators are delivering just 24 per cent of the advertised download rate, with the average actual download speed just barely managing to creep above 1Mbps.

The results from the study were:

  • Vodafone (advertised: 7.2Mbps) - result: 1.3Mbps
  • Three (3) (advertised: 3.6Mbps) - result: 1.2Mbps
  • Orange (advertised: 3.6Mbps) - result: 1.1Mbps
  • O2 (advertised: 3.6Mbps) - result: 1.0Mbps
  • T-Mobile (advertised: 4.5Mbps) - result: 0.9Mbps

According to Rob Webber, Broadband Expert's commercial director, consumers who see mobile broadband advertised at such high speeds may see it as a realistic alternative to home broadband, "whereas in truth it should be seen as a complementary technology. Continued developments in the mobile broadband industry will undoubtedly allow it to become a true competitor in the future, but at the moment - as our research shows - there is still a way to go."

These disappointing results come after the five UK mobile operators published ‘Principles of Good Practice for marketing mobile broadband' in June of this year. However, 3UK attempted to defend its lack of performance by maintaining that consumers should consider not just speed, but breadth and reliability of coverage, but also admitted that there was a lot to be done to ensure the industry delivered to customer expectations.

Meanwhile Vodafone claimed that customers were looking for reliability and consistency from mobile broadband, and pointed potential mobile broadband users to its web site to see an example of downloading an image or document at 1.2Mbps.

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