Ofcom has published its first research into the consumer experience of UK mobile broadband services since the 4G auction last year. The regulator’s own engineers conducted around 210,000 tests of 3G and 4G services on smartphones in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester between March and June 2014.
Download speed, upload speed, web page loading times and latency were all measured.
According to the study, the average 4G mobile broadband download speed was 15.1 megabits per second; more than twice as fast as the average 3G speed of 6.1Mbps.
Uploads showed an even more dramatic difference: average 4G mobile upload speeds were more than seven times faster than for 3G (12.4Mbps compared to 1.6Mbps).
EE offered the fastest average 4G download speed (18.4Mbps) followed by O2 with 15.6Mbps, Vodafone with 14.3Mbps and Three with 10.7Mbps.
The fastest average 3G downloads were also offered by EE (6.8Mbps), closely followed by Vodafone (6.7 Mbps), then O2 (5.6Mbps) and Three (5.2Mbps).
Again, EE had the fastest average 4G upload speed (14.7Mbps), although Three offered the fastest average 3G upload speed (1.7Mbps).
An average web page took 0.78 seconds to load on a smartphone using a 4G mobile connection and 1.06 seconds on a 3G connection. Three offered the fastest service on both 4G and 3G.
Latency was lowest (i.e. fastest data delivery) on Three for 3G and 4G services.
Differences between cities were also notable: Edinburgh had the highest average download speeds for 4G and 3G, while London had the lowest. Conversely, 4G latency was lowest in London but highest in Edinburgh.
Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said “Having fast, reliable broadband on the move is vital for many consumers and businesses across the UK. Today’s research shows 4G is providing a significantly enhanced mobile broadband experience to customers, which we expect to be available to 98% of the UK population by 2017 at the latest. Improving mobile quality of service is an important area of Ofcom’s work. Our research both incentivises mobile providers to offer a higher quality of service, while helping consumers choose a mobile package that best suits their needs.”
[Report: Measuring mobile broadband performance in the UK]