Testing mobile broadband is vastly more complicated than fixed line broadband as there are many more variables involved, from whether it is raining to being a few feet either direction can mean you get a much better signal, plus you have no way of knowing how many others are connected to the same cell tower.
BBC journalist, Rory Cellan-Jones has described how variable 4G signals can be, and that is no surprise to anyone used to 3G services. The 4G service from EE at 1,800MHz is not immune to the problems of signal shadow in cities, and EE has said that whilst it has launched services in the 11 cities, some areas inside the footprint will still need infill to get the best service.
Some 3G users on EE contracts have also been complaining that their service has been slower than usual in order to make the new 4G service seem ultra quick. However, the last two months has also seen a lot of new mobile phones and tablets launched, which may be leading to even greater congestion on the existing 3G networks.
For example, with Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 6, offering built-in navigation that relies on a data connection rather than a large set of maps held in the phone’s storage, the number of phones with links to cell towers has increased. 4G should support more connections at once in addition to offering a better link back from the base station to the Internet at large.
When suggesting typical speeds of 8- to 12Mbps, EE is actually under stating what 4G is capable of in ideal conditions. As such, it is attempting to abide by new advertising rules that have come into effect for mobile broadband services, and will require ALL mobile operators to advertise a speed that people can actually get, rather than the theoretical speed of a device.
As has happened with fixed broadband advertising, this has led to people thinking that providers are slowing down their services, when all they are doing is basing their advertising on measured real world speeds rather than laboratory tests.