4G is quicker than 3G, says Ofcom. Can't we get you on Mastermind, Sybil?

Doubts remain over accuracy of UK mobile broadband speeds


Handset consistency

What isn’t OK is the claim that by using the same handsets the next time around they will get a like-for-like comparison. The handsets used were Samsung Galaxy Note 3 devices running “industry standard testing software”. Unfortunately since the testing, EE has launched what it calls 4G+ and which needs a CAT 6 phone.

The Galaxy Note 3 is a CAT 4 phone so won’t support the carrier aggregation on the frequencies EE is using. If Ofcom doesn’t update it’s hardware for the next set of tests it will under-report the EE speeds. If it does, the claims of like-for-like comparison between tests are devalued.

One of the tough things Ofcom has published data on is latency. Latency on 4G was lowest in London (48.8ms on average) while Birmingham had the lowest levels on 3G (63.6ms). Edinburgh had the highest average levels of latency for both 4G and 3G with readings of 60.3ms and 69.4ms respectively. But there are no notes on where the server was.

We did ask Ofcom (ahead of publication) how latency would be measured and didn’t get a reply. One might suspect the server was in London as that would account for lower latency, but it tells us nothing of the network performance.

Looking at the reports there are so many elephants in the room it’s more than a little crowded. This is all about speed and nothing about quality. Ofcom acknowledges that there is no coverage information, but it seems to be unable to lock devices to 3G or 4G so has had to throw away any data where there is a switch, meaning only good stable signals are reported upon. There is also no information on reliability or packet loss. Dr Paul Carter of GWS told us “it’s a bit like having a beauty contest and not looking at the face”.

And while it's at it, Ofcom could have looked at Relish, which claims mobile speeds of 50Mbps on its 3.5GHz 4G spectrum. Albeit only in London.

If you would like to see London figures produced with a more transparent methodology, and which give a location-by-location breakdown you can find that on our map.

Ultimately, there is only one thing the Ofcom report can be sure of: 4G is faster than 3G. Who'd have thunk it? ®

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