back to article Mobile Broadband just not fast enough

64 per cent of users polled by Broadband Genie reported themselves unhappy with the speed of their mobile broadband, in a result that the comparison service describes as "damning". Given the question "Is your mobile broadband fast enough?", 63.8 per cent of the 1,160 people polled said it wasn't. More surprising were the 24.7 …


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  1. Rob Beard

    Better coverage

    I have a Vodafone 3G modem on Pay as you surf, mainly because I don't use it that often but occasionally I do need internet access when I'm away from home.

    I have found when I get a 3G or HSDPA connection it runs really well and is quick enough for my needs (browsing, e-mail, remote access). Due to the low allowance (£15 for 1GB) I tend to avoid streaming videos and audio.

    However, there are many places I can not get any reception, or at best GPRS. Now GPRS isn't that bad if I'm just using text based e-mail, but I wish that the reception was better.

    So I'd say before increasing the speeds, sort out the lousy reception.


  2. Steven 23

    Hypocrit 2.0

    "The public perception of mobile broadband is often of a service that is comparable in speed and stability to fixed-line broadband, which simply isn't the case – and won't be for the foreseeable future."

    Yet that's exactly what we advertise it as... feckwits.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "punters expect it to operate at advertised speeds"

    No shit, Sherlock!

    Bring back capital punishment for advertising 'droids.

    I was going to qualify that statement with "who use words like unlimited when the service patently isn't" but, actually, it seems fine as it is.

  4. Daniel 4

    Not only not fast enough enough...

    ...but also not reliable enough. I had to use mobile broadband for 5 weeks during a transition period, and while I could forgive the low speeds (it's mobile; I didn't expect much), the reliability was totally unacceptable. Until mobile broadband can provide a connection as stable as a landline, it's just not useful for anything except an inferior replacement when the real thing is unavailable.


  5. Chris 211


    "Until mobile broadband can provide a connection as stable as a landline,"... DOH your one of these customers expecting the impossible. Its radio, its airwaves it will NEVER be as stable or reliable or as fast or faster then cables could ever provide.

    Cabled connections (switchs) are full duplex were as WiFi, any kind of radio network connection today is half duplex because its a shared medium. RF regardless of technologies is affected after the transmission by anything full of water like humans plants paper. Some student accommodation in Swansea uni uses insulation that act as a Faraday cage blocking ALL mobile and WiFi connections. A product that is going to be increasingly used DOH! So expectations really do need readjusting and users MUST start to understand the limitations of technologies, no wait limitations imposed by physics. Maybe its time to make people pass a little exam before they are allowed to use such technologies.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe those who are happy are in areas with good 3G connections. If I get a good 3G connection on my G1 then its not that bad if you avoid graphic laden sites. But if I can't get a good 3G connection then its just painful and I just wont even bother using it.

  7. breakfast

    Speed not as much of a problem...

    During the period that we were stuck with mobile broadband while BT spent a few weeks arbitrarily cutting off our ADSL with neither warning nor explanation the speed was fine.

    The little USB modem, however, is an absolute pain in the ass. It drops out on a regular basis, if you don't connect to the service in the first minute or two after starting up then you're not going to unless you unplug the modem and plug it back in enough times and in the correct sequence to proptiate the insane gods of mobile broadband service.

    But when the service was accessible, it was fine. Not amazing, but quite useable.

  8. John Latham

    "the problem is one of unmet expectations"

    No, the problem is that it's shit.

  9. Paul Cooper


    If you are lucky enough to be in an area covered by 3G, then speeds are acceptable (but only acceptable!). But if you aren't, so-called "broadband" drops to dial-up speeds, and isn't acceptable at all. The recent release of 3G coverage mapping is a damning indictment of the over-selling of so-called "mobile broadband".

  10. Jacqui Smith's DVD Collection!
    Thumb Up

    it's fine

    Just give us more coverage!!!

  11. Sampler
    Thumb Down

    They're own fault

    They call it mobile "broadband" people expect it to mean the same as their home broadband, you're not to expect joe bloggs in the street to know the difference.

    Mobile dial-up is what they offer and what they should call it. Then folk will be quite happy with the fact it's faster than their old dial-up modems from the dark ages.

  12. lukewarmdog


    How are they legally allowed to advertise unlimited surfing when there is a very clear limit placed on how much you are allowed to do? There's an Internet radio station that has brought out an iPhone app and between tracks it keeps telling me that the iPhone is the biggest selling mobile device of all time. Bigger than a car? Surely not.

    I think my mobile internet is fine given the low expectations I have of getting anything from a service with only one bar.

    You really canNOT extrapolate anything when you only ask 1100 people tho.

  13. Dr Who

    It's all in the question

    Maybe the 10 percent who are happy think that mobile broadband means carrying your laptop around the house, connected either with a very long patch lead or preferably via WLAN. That can be the only explanation.

  14. Annihilator Silver badge

    This 11%

    Presumably these will be the people who are happy enough with dial-up and should never have been sold broadband.

    I think that mobile bb can be amazing. If you are right next to the mast and there is no-one else on the same cell as you. Try the 3G at Waterloo during rushhour and you'll see the opposite end of the spectrum.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit like the early days of mobile phones

    The reliability and speed are related to where you try and use it; I have mobile broadband from 3 (£15/month for 15GB) and it works fine at home (semi-rural Staffordshire), where I use it as backup to my landline and as supplementary bandwidth (downloading stuff whilst using the landline for VPN sessions). Out and about it's a bit variable; airports are good, anywhere away from urban areas is poor or non-existent. Overall I'm happy with the product, but would rather have greater coverage than more speed.

  16. Adam 10

    It depends where you are...

    ... although that kinda defeats the point of mobile broadband, where the key word is "mobile"!

    I can sit in rural Bedfordshire connecting at 7.2mbps and getting a decent "real life" speed, make 3G video calls and all sorts. That's fine.

    However, in Swindon last week, I could barely get a GPRS connection with my largest aerial, and that connection was incredibly slow and unreliable. One bar signal strength.

    What's funny is that farmers round here can surf the web at 7.2 meg from their tractors, whilst the business parks of Swindon are a veritable dead zone.

    My only gripe with mobile broadband (assuming you've got a signal!) is the latency. Really laaaaaaaaggy!

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Advertised speed

    I can sit in my flat in Sheffield (with no fixed-line broadband) with a perfect HSDPA signal and still only get 300kbps down.

    Everything is seemingly compatible with 7.2mbps HSDPA, so why can't I get it?!

  18. Wize

    One of the problems is coverage.

    I'm in a house that is supposedly covered by all the mobile companies with full 3G, but in reality I can only get 3G on O2, but even that is low.

    Does anyone know a nice way to check signal strengths without buying a mobile for every network first? My N95 can be put in manual network mode and tell you what it can detect, but not strength.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Mobile broadband sucks

    During peak hours the speed of mobile really sucks, Wait until late at night or early morning and it whizzes along.

    The amount of false advertising to do with mobile broadband is unbelievable.

  20. Jason Hall


    I spent a week on holiday in a caravan in Aberystwyth a short while ago.

    Connected through 3 and their nice'n'cheap Netbook deal (£15 = Asus netbook + 1gb/month) deal.

    Not as good as a 'proper' connection - but with the mobile transmitter less than half a mile away it was more than good enough. Youtube/iplayer/etc all worked fine. I was a very happy bunny.

    I get home and can't even get gprs with it though :(

  21. Andy Watt

    Spreading factors...

    The way 3G works means there's only a couple of the highest speeds available in a single cell - you use a "spreading factor" and these are arranged in a sort of pyramid, with few fast ones at the top and many many slower ones at the bottom. Voice calls don't use very much bandwidth at all, so a cell can support many voice calls (something networks were keen on) but don't expect a single 3G cell to give more than a handful of people any bandwidth which will compare to ADSL speeds. (the reality is a lot more complex and I'm sure networks are tweaking node B and RNC settings all the time to try to share out the spreading factors).

    Factor in the near-far problem in 3G (whose symptoms include cell breathing) and you can quickly see that it's hard work getting 3G networks to give you "broadband".

    This is why 3G microcells and picocells are become a popular idea - those macrocells in the street ain't going to give every netbook a fat pipe to the interwebs.

    So what we have here, in the end, is a fatal communication error between those who implemented and installed the technology and those who sold it. What a surprise.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Most cellular is actually full-duplex; one set of frequencies for the downlink and another set (offset) for the uplink. And lots of older Ethernet is still running half-duplex Collision Detected Multiple Access (CDMA). Now when you put TCP on either they can both effectively go to half-duplex.

    Was Swansea UNI tinfoil wrap successful in reducing need for the population to wear individual hats?

  23. Tony Humphreys
    Thumb Up


    £5 for a gig a month on three - what do you expect.

    Ideal for emergency (SSH works fine) and camping - what do people expect from a mobile phone network.

    As usual - coverage could be better - especially on three - although I have always been able to get a connection outside, and even 9.6 is fine for text based stuff.

    No youtube or torrent though - why when out and about!

  24. James Hamilton 1
    Thumb Down

    Two points

    - Better coverage

    - Better backhaul where there is coverage

    That's the problem with mobile telcos - they just don't seem to have the backhaul from base-stations to the interweb.

    It's all well and good if you've got people connecting in on HSDPA at 7.2Mbps, it's a bit of a shitter if you've only got a 10Mbps connection from there to the world!!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Eeek! A title!

    It's all about relativity I guess. For a while I was stuck with BT Broadband which topped out at 60K despite lots of tests and assurances from people with Indian accents that it should be faster. It was only when I went with Be that the speeds started hitting what they should be.

    Now I've moved back to Glasgow and am in the process of sorting out my new flat my Three dongle is the only internet I have. It just feels like being back with BT again so until I get wired BB installed it'll do. It's a bit of pain having to watch what you're downloading but with HSDPA I can't grumble much. Faster would be nice but won't LTE sort that out?

  26. Mark Greenwood

    Chris 211

    "were as WiFi, any kind of radio network connection today is half duplex because its a shared medium"

    Mobile data has been full duplex since GPRS.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    It's Overloaded

    The problem is that there are too many people on it and the network cannot cope. The providers need to upgrade the network capacity. It's chronic in the evenings but at about 11pm when people are going to bed it speeds up and is quite good. This improves even more by about 1a.m. (yes I know I have a sad life).

    It would seem that the network providers are trying to keep their costs down by not upgrading the network as the user base increases.

  28. kwikbreaks
    Thumb Down

    Forget the claims

    Anybody expecting to roam the country and get an acceptable connection is going to be very disappointed. That will probably be most subscribers who believe the advertising and do no research.

    I only got mobile BB in order to be able to access the internet from a few fixed locations and initially made the mistake of believing 3's coverage chart. Fortunately I'd also researched their returns policy and was able to return their dongle at no cost to me - it didn't work at all at any of the places I tried. After checking the Ofcom site I found that the mast I could actually see from the main location I needed was operated by Vodafone so signed up with them for a year through Quidco bringing the cost down to £90 for the year. That contract is coming up for renewal and I'll be looking for a very good deal if I'm going to continue with it. At this location it works well enough giving download speeds of around 1Mbps (although it connects at 7.2Mbps). It even manages to maintain the connection most of the time - this is probably because the cell is on the outskirts of a city and it's entirely possible that I'm the only mobile BB user on it.

    The Vodafone service hasn't worked very well at all anywhere else that I've tried - either no connection at all or GPRS with regular dropouts and abysmal speeds which seem even slower than how I remember dialup used to be.

    If HMG are expecting mobile to fill the "notspots" for "Digital Britain" there will need to be a huge improvement in coverage and actual speed delivery.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I couldn't agree with you more. All this mass spreading of virii, and massive phisihing scams are all perpetuated by idiots with computers.

    I say it's about time going online was akin to driving a car. Do some lessons and pass a test and gain your internet access license.

  30. gim


    Lots of people using 'mobile broadband' at home (plugged into a PC) don't realise that their dongle plugged in at foot level with the signal going through a cavity wall is not ideal, If they get someting like a 'Huawei D100' wireless router (dongle plugs into this), put it on the window sill with the best reception and then transmit to their computer they will do far better speedwise.

  31. Michael Mace
    Thumb Down

    This wasn't a real survey

    The people responding to that survey were self-selected visitors to the company's website. Statistically, it doesn't tell you anything about average mobile broadband users. I have no doubt that mobile broadband is being overhyped, but when reporting a "study" like this you ought to also note when its methodology is rubbish.

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