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Mobile connectivity speeds – myths and personal reality

November 30th, 2012 by Tim Greenhalgh

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The Guardian newspaper published an article on mobile connectivity speeds in the UK recently. Weird thing is, my personal connectivity speed bears no relation to its findings.

I check my mobile connection speeds regularly, turning off WiFi connection first to get the clearest data.

At 15:45 this afternoon, according to Speedtest.net, the Ping time was 756 milliseconds, with the down-stream coming in at 0.02 mbps, matched by the upstream connection speed.

I have no reason to doubt the Guardian’s data but it is a puzzle that I can only achieve these paltry speeds on what is supposed to be a fast mobile network. The provider is O2 so either I’m not connecting to a 3G network or the network is not functioning to maximum effect.

The Guardian reports that the average speed of a mobile phone connection in the UK has risen to 2.6 megabits per second with customers of Three and Vodafone receiving the fastest 3G services.

To mark the arrival of fourth generation wireless broadband (4G) last month, the title asked readers to put their networks to the test.

“Results poured in from Inverness to Plymouth, from the Welsh valleys to Hull and London, and the verdict is that, while coverage remains patchy, speeds have improved since the last major survey two years ago found a national average of 1.5 Mbps.”

Currently the Guardian mobile speed tester is unavailable, which is a pity but, anyway,  I trust Speedtest.net to deliver accurate results.

With more than 7,300 separate measurements recorded via the Guardian’s mobile phone speed tester, largely on 3G with a sprinkling from EE’s new 4G network, a picture emerged of a mobile internet that for the first time truly qualifies as broadband, and that is at its best faster than Wi-Fi connections at home. You can see the results of the research here.

Significantly, the Guardian report advises that too often the service that users pay for is patchy and inconsistent, particularly in rural areas and in cities during rush hour, with one commuter describing their iPhone 5 as “an expensive paper weight” and another saying coverage on motorways in the south-east of England was “unpredictable or useless”.

I have never, not once, achieved the connection speeds on my mobile that are being touted as a mean average in the UK by the Guardian. I’m no slouch when it comes to mobile technologies so do not believe that there is a set-up dysfunction on my iPhone 4s.

I travel to London from Brighton quite a lot and the mobile connectivity service on that train run is, frankly, laughable.

There is absolutely no way that I can currently use my iPhone effectively as a business device with the kinds of speeds I’m getting.

I just think that we have a very long way to go before we have ‘everywhere fast connectivity’ on our mobile devices and this is surely due to the lacuna between what the mobile network operators promise and what they deliver each day around the UK.

We deserve better from the mobile operators, who charge a princely sum for the privilege of tapping into their creaking, overloaded, slow and unstable networks.

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