By Marcus Leach

Ofcom has published its first research into the performance of mobile broadband across the UK.

Ofcom consumer research shows that 17 per cent of UK households are using mobile broadband to access online services, with 7 per cent using it as their only means of internet access, compared to 3 per cent in 2009.

The research involved over 4.2 million tests and measured average speeds as well as the performance of the five mobile operators in areas of good 3G network coverage.

This report looks specifically at the performance of mobile networks using dongles and datacards and does not consider smartphones. Ofcom is planning to undertake further research into mobile broadband, including the performance of smartphones.

The research found some differences between the performance of operators’ 3G networks. O2, Vodafone and 3 offered faster average download speeds than T-Mobile and Orange.

O2, on average, delivered web pages faster than the other four operators and had lower average latency than 3, Orange and Vodafone. Latency is a measure of the responsiveness of a connection (it is measured by the time it takes a single packet of data to travel from a user’s PC to a third-party server and back again).

The slower speed of web page downloading on mobile broadband compared to fixed broadband is largely the result of higher levels of latency. In addition to increasing the time for web page downloads, high latency may make connections less suitable for some online games and VoIP.