Monday, November 3, 2008

Fixed broadband faster than mobile broadband - for ever?

Research shows fixed broadband services are faster than mobile broadband, and the gap is growing as the likes of BT and Virgin Media attempt fixed broadband data speeds of up to 100Mbps

Broadband comparison site Broadband Expert said fixed broadband services are now, on average, twice as fast as mobile broadband. They clocked the average fixed line broadband speed at 3.61Mbs based on over 308,584 fixed line broadband speed tests, compared to 1.57Mbs for mobile broadband based on 5,345 tests.

Fixed broadband services are now 0.66Mbs faster than they were in February 2008, when the average speed was recorded at 2.95Mbs.

By comparison mobile broadband services surveyed by the same company in April 2008 have increased in speed by just 0.1Mbs.

Broadband Expert's William Harvey said: "Broadband providers are phasing out slower services with many providers entry level packages starting at up to 8Mb and a number of providers upgrading customers on slower services free of charge."

He added: "Mobile broadband is capable of achieving speeds of up to 7.2Mbs in areas of 3G coverage. However where no 3G coverage is available mobile broadband services rely on the much slower 2G network hence the area in which you use your mobile broadband connection can have a huge impact on the speeds achievable".

Harvey expects the gap in speeds between fixed and mobile broadband to grow further, as home broadband providers invest huge sums in updating their networks.

In July, BT announced it will invest £1.5 billion to roll out fibre based broadband services capable of speeds of up to 100Mbs whilst Virgin Media is aiming to make their 50Mbs service available to nine million UK homes by the end of 2008.

We don't think this is the full story though. Recent reports have revealed the full potential of LTE or Long Term Evolution as a '4G' successor to the 3G cellular, or HSPA, infrastructures. Tests have suggested speeds of 100Mbps are possible. If that's the case, surely a nationwide rollout of a cell-based 4G network will be a far more attractive financial proposition than spending £billions on laying fibre in the ground?

Let's be honest whether you get 50Mbps, 75Mbps or 100Mbps may well be inconsequential - even when it comes to HD streaming - with the likely advances in compression technology over the next few years.

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