Ofcom research into mobile broadband speeds has revealed, on average O2 delivers faster download speeds than any other operator.The findings put O2 ahead of Vodafone and Three which were in turn found to be faster than both Everything Everywhere operators Orange and T- Mobile.

The findings were for for mobile internet dongles and datacards only and did not include smartphone use.

The research which was carried out between September and December last year found the average download speed achieved by consumers was 1.5 Mbit per second. The average download time for a web page was 8.5 seconds.

Download speeds however improved in areas better serviced by 3G, increasing to 2.1 Mbits per second in non peak times when average web page download times were 2.2 seconds.

These results compare with average fixed line speeds of 6.2 Mbits per second and average web page download times of 0.5 seconds.

O2 chief operating officer Derek McManus said the research proved O2 customers were benefiting from the operators infrastructure investment

“Our customers are seeing the benefit from the huge investment we have made in our network. We always aim to deliver the best network experience for our customers and these results are another indicator that we are doing just that,” McManus said.


Three which has been running a massive advertising campaign in recent months centred around its broadband coverage said the research showed it provided the most extensive 3G coverage in the country.

A spokesperson for the operator also said its network had improved considerably since the research was carried out.

“Ofcom’s research shows that Three offers coverage to more customers in more places than any other network and despite carrying around half of the UK’s total mobile broadband traffic, the report shows we offer some of the best speeds in the market,” the spokesperson said.

“The data in Ofcom’s report is now five-months old, during which time Three has continued to invest heavily in improving and upgrading our network.

“This summer we will be rolling out HSPA+ which will offer customers faster speeds and even greater capacity.”

The spokesperson also defended Threes marketing campaign

“We market our mobile broadband service on ease of access, flexibility and value, not headline speeds. Ofcom’s comparison with fixed-line broadband is not like for like,” the spokesperson said.

Vodafone welcomed the findings but like Three felt that the research was not entirely accurate.

A Vodafone spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see that Ofcom’s first review of mobile broadband shows that Vodafone offers consistency to its customers across speed and ability to access the web first time, as well as proving that Vodafone offers the fastest download speeds available in the UK.

“While the report provides a snapshot of the experience that British consumers have of accessing the web on the move, it is disappointing that the regulator has not taken into account the point that we have made repeatedly about the way it has measured ‘latency’. Ofcom’s testing fails to reflect the great experience which our customers actually receive.”

Orange also questioned the findings saying it was “concerned” the study only focused on dongles.

“Our main concern is that Ofcom’s study only focussed on dongles, which are only one part of a consumer’s mobile broadband experience and excludes the millions of users that access the internet through their 3G smart phones,” an Orange spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said since the research had been carried out it, like Three had been working on its network and believes it is currently in a better position than it was at the end of last year.

“Since this research was conducted 6 months ago, we’ve delivered significant improvements as part of ongoing investment in our network and we feel this significantly enhances our position,” the spokesperson said.

“We will continue working with Ofcom to address our concerns about this report and to ensure any further iterations better reflect what really matters to consumers and the many issues which combine to make an effective mobile network.”

Location differences

As well as testing the speed of downloads, Ofcom also looked at how download performances varied between different parts of the UK.

The research found that urban areas out performed rural ones due to greater availability of 3G services.

Despite this Ofcom said findings showed performance was “highly variable” across urban areas with no guarantee of good performance offered in city centre locations.

Testing took place across Birmingham, the M62 corridor between Liverpool and Manchester, Swansea and semi rural areas in Herefordshire and Shropshire.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards (pictured) said the research would give consumers a clearer picture of the performance of mobile broadband dongle and data card providers.

“The research is another important step in Ofcom’s efforts to ensure that consumers have the information they need to exercise their choice effectively and to make the most of competition in the market,” Richards said.