Following four months of tests, the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom has determined that O2 provided the best mobile broadband service of the four UK operators. Orange, which was judged to offer the worst service, has lodged a complaint with Ofcom questioning the methodology of the study.
The tests, which were conducted by the quality assurance firm Epitiro, took place between September and December 2010. The company recorded 4.2 million measurements using a combination of static probes, drive tests and consumer inputs by means of a speed test app.
The outcome positioned O2 as providing the fastest download performance, at an average of 2.5Mbps, while Orange came in last with an average of just over 1Mbps. After O2, Vodafone and 3 had the fastest speeds, followed by T-Mobile and Orange. Orange also preformed poorly in latency tests, was unable to achieve download speeds in excess of 2Mbps, and in 20 per cent of the tests failed to record speeds above 0.5Mbps.
Orange, as reported by Mobile Europe, has expressed its concern that the Ofcom research focused exclusively on dongles and datacards, without including smartphones: "It also excludes 2G data as well as Wi-Fi and we don't believe it reflects actual 3G geographic coverage or how customers actually use their mobile broadband services."
The operator claims that since these tests were conducted it has significantly improved its network, and pointed to two recent awards for its mobile broadband performance.
Responding to Orange's concerns, Iain Wood, vice president of marketing at Epitiro, told Mobile Europe that all the UK operators had been consulted and given feedback on the test methodology before the commencement of testing. Orange had not expressed any concerns about the methodology, he said, and still has not done so directly to Epitiro. According to Wood, Epitiro had found 100 test sites where all operators provided coverage, and conducted tests on each network using the same equipment at the same location, using the same parameters.
Wood also dismissed the issue that smartphones were not involved. "We did this as a test using dongles because Ofcom wanted to make a direct comparison between fixed and mobile broadband for consumers who are making an either/or decision in terms of their main broadband connection."
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