Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulatory authority, under took comprehensive 3G mobile broadband tests involving the major UK 3G network companies. The testing by Ofcom involved 4.2 million tests measuring average speeds and 3G network coverage.
Ofcom says that the number of mobile broadband users who soley rely on mobile broadband has doubled in the last year to over 7 percent and the number of households who use mobile broadband has reached 17%. It should be noted that smartphones were excluded from the research exercise and concentrated on those users using 3G mobile dongles and datacards in laptops.
As a result of the research it was shown that the average 3G download speed was 1.5Mbit/s and basic webpages took on average 8.5 seconds to download.
However, in good 3G coverage areas, Ofcom found that average mobile broadband speeds were 2.1Mbit/s, falling to an average of 1.7Mbit/s during the peak evening period of 8-10pm. Basic web pages took on average 2.2 seconds to download.
The research found some differences between the performance of operators' 3G networks. O2, Vodafone and 3 offered faster average download speeds than T-Mobile and Orange.
O2, on average, delivered web pages faster than the other four operators and had lower average latency than 3, Orange and Vodafone. Latency is a measure of the responsiveness of a connection (it is measured by the time it takes a single packet of data to travel from a user's PC to a third-party server and back again).
The slower speed of web page downloading on mobile broadband compared to fixed broadband is largely the result of higher levels of latency. In addition to increasing the time for web page downloads, high latency may make connections less suitable for some online games and VoIP.
The full Ofcom report can be viewed here.