Mobile Broadband Coverage Guide
Mobile broadband is the technology that allows your laptop or smartphone to access high-speed internet connections from any location. Mobile broadband, however, is a very general term.
Like any product, there are different aspects of it that can affect a user’s experience.
Most of these aspects vary from provider to provider, and one provider might excel in one area but be lacking in another. When comparing and contrasting mobile broadband quality, consider the following topics.
- Network and Coverage
Network & Coverage
Until relatively recently, most mobile broadband was provided on a 2G network. The technology is advancing rapidly, so in general most providers offer 3G and even 4G, but it is wise to check the locations where 3G is offered, and whether it is enhanced with HSDPA, which increases the speed of 3G.
Most providers supply information about their network coverage on their websites. As smart phones and laptops are required to handle more data and more complex data, the 2G networks, designed mostly for voice and text, are simply not up to the job. Each network has a maximum identified speed, but it is important to recognize that the “maximum” speed is rarely the speed a user experiences.
There are other factors, to be discussed in detail under “Speed” that can affect how fast your data moves.
Unless you are in a WiFi hotspot, you will need a connecting device. The device, a dongle, USB stick, or internal modem is basically the piece that creates a bridge between the internet and your device, allowing data to move in both directions.
The use of built in connections is increasing, but many devices still require an external dongle or USB stick. Whether you are using your laptop or a smart phone make sure you understand the requirements.
This topic, along with reliability, is of vital importance to most users. It is also one of the most difficult to measure with precision, because speed is affected by many variables.
Absolute maximum speed is affected by the location of the computer or smart phone location, the angle, distance, and intervening obstructions between computer or smart phone and the mobile phone mast, and density of traffic on the network. In addition, the device used to connect to the network—dongle, USB stick, or built-in modem, can have an impact on the speed.
Therefore, the maximum speed advertised can be used as a guide for comparison, but not as a guarantee of user experience. Details about speed for each provider can also be found on their websites.
Like speed, reliability is difficult to quantify without using the specifics of a user’s location and practices. In general, however, a little research should provide anecdotal evidence of which provider is most reliable in your area.
Furthermore, most carriers offer some means for opting out of the agreement within a specified amount of time if the user finds the service is not reliable or is unsatisfactory in some other way.
Here, too, a provider who excels in one region may have less reliable coverage in another region, It would be misleading to make generalizations about reliability of any one provider across the whole of the UK.
For comparison purposes, the information below is a snapshot of coverage and speed for each of the major providers in the UK.
As stated above, this data should be used as a starting point for comparison of priority areas for the user. For example, the provider with the highest coverage is among the carriers with the slowest speed.
It is also important to keep in mind that the technology is advancing rapidly. It was not long ago that users were amazed by home broadband. Today we have the convenience and efficiency of mobile broadband. Who knows what the next iteration will bring!