For people who like to share photos and videos on their mobile phone, 4G offers a significant improvement, according to Ofcom
Uploading content, such as photos or videos, is more than seven times faster on 4G than on 3G, according to new research published by Ofcom today.
Internet service providers usually advertise their services based on their download speeds, as this is what matters if you are consuming web content – browsing news websites or streaming video, for example.
However, the mobile internet experience tends to be more interactive, with many people using their phones to share photos and videos on the fly, so upload speeds are becoming more important.
The communications regulator Ofcom has today published its first research into consumers’ experience of mobile broadband in the UK, based on 210,000 tests of 4G and 3G services.
The research reveals that the average upload speed over 4G is 12.4Mbps compared to 1.6Mbps for 3G.
EE’s (14.7Mbps) and O2’s (13.0Mbps) 4G upload speeds are above average, followed by Vodafone and Three with 11.4Mbps and 11.1Mbps respectively. Three offers the fastest average upload speed over 3G (1.7Mbps).
Meanwhile, the average mobile broadband download speed on 4G (15.1Mbps) is more than twice as fast as on 3G (6.1Mbps) across all the networks.
EE and O2 offer faster than average 4G download speeds at 18.4 Mbps and 15.6Mbps respectively. Vodafone delivers an average 4G download speed of 14.3Mbps, and Three 10.7Mbps.
“Having fast, reliable broadband on the move is vital for many consumers and businesses across the UK,” said Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards.
“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.”
The research also reveals differences in performance between the five cities analysed – Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Manchester.
Manchester has the highest average 4G upload speed (13.2Mbps), while Glasgow and London has the lowest (11.8Mbps and 12.0Mbps respectively). The highest average 3G upload speeds were recorded in Edinburgh and Glasgow (both 1.7Mbps), while the lowest were found in London (1.4Mbps).
When it comes to download speeds, the highest average speeds for 4G and 3G were recorded in Edinburgh (16.8Mbps and 7.8Mbps respectively). London has the lowest average 4G (13.1Mbps) and 3G (4.1Mps) download speeds.
Ofcom said that its report is designed to incentivise mobile providers to offer a higher quality of service, while helping consumers choose a mobile package that best suits their needs.
However, Paul Carter, CEO of engineering company GWS, has slammed the report, claiming that Ofcom’s research does not realistically represent consumers’ mobile experiences.
“Consumers who only use their devices while standing stock still in select city centre locations might experience average download speeds of 15.1Mbps on 4G – unfortunately this rules out every real person with a mobile,” he said.
“This report doesn’t tell us anything about network reliability, coverage, connectivity on the move – it’s the network benchmarking equivalent of a beauty pageant.”
The Countryside Alliance also criticised Ofcom for only measuring the speed of smartphone broadband in five big cities across the UK, and urged Ofcom to release similar figures for rural mobile broadband speeds
“We look forward to the research including rural areas to ensure those who live and work in the countryside can also have access to information on which operator will best meet their needs,” said Sarah Lee, head of policy at Countryside Alliance.
An Ofcom spokesman defended the report, claiming that it is intended to help consumers understand differences in performance between 3G and 4G, and to support consumers in choosing a service that suits their needs.
“Our tests used smartphones anyone can buy and captured the performance a consumer would typically experience,” he said. “We have also included maps and data in our report to show the coverage of 4G services; the second phase of this research is under way and we expect to publish in spring 2015.”