Tag Archives: 4g speeds

How Fast Is 3G?

With the recent hype from Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) about their new 4G LTE Service which they are calling 4GEE, many comparisons are being made between existing 3G and the new 4G wireless broadband services.  EE (Everything Everywhere) are using some Ofcom report which states that the average 3G Speed in the UK is only 1-2Mbps and their new 4G service will be five times faster (I suppose that means 5-10Mbps).

This 1-2Mbps is not the reality for most users and since Three.co.uk updated their 3G network to the new HSPA+service which offers download speeds up to 21Mbps, many users find that their download and upload speeds on 3G are around 5-6Mbps for download and 2Mbps for upload and many users of traditional fixed line ADSL broadband services in rural and semi-rural locations do not get this kind of speed and are moving to 3G wireless broadband internet.

When we tested our 3 Mobile SIM card inside a Zalip CDG561WE 3G Router which is a HSPA+ Router we consistently got 12Mbps download speeds and 2Mbps upload speeds which we thought was very impressive.

How Fast Is 3G - CDG561WE Speedtest with 3 Mobile SIM

So when you are asking the question How Fast is 4G then you should also ask How Fast Is 3G so you can make a proper comparison when deciding whether or not to invest in a new 4G LTE Router or 4G Modem and whether existing 3G mobile broadband is enough for you especially as many networks still cap your 3G data limits when using a 3G Modem, 3G Dongle or 3G Router with many of the uncapped 3G data plans only available for use in 3G Smartphones.

What will happen when Mobile Broadband is faster than Fixed Broadband?

What makes the UK Telecoms market different to other countries?

In the UK, particularly since deregulation got into full swing in the early 90’s the UK has been arguably one of the most vibrant and competitive telecoms markets in the world. The 90’s saw the arrival of the Cable companies primarily backed by US money and a serious ‘we are going to show you guys how to build a network buddy attitude!’ They came, they went. They spent a whole lot of money and they left what is now Virgin Media to pick up the pieces of confusion and debt. But, they did leave, I believe, one of the most advanced access networks in the world. One in fact that BT are still trying to emulate today with their ‘fibre to the curb’ roll out. Virgin Media have fibre to within 500M or less of the majority of urban houses in the UK. They also have 2 distinct networks, one offering Broadcast TV and the other Telephony. It doesn’t reach the rural areas as that proved too expensive to build in the early days when there were regulatory targets to meet. But it does mean that they can offer super fast, by today’s standards, broadband speeds and they are doing this today over their TV infrastructure with cable modems. It does also mean that they have choices in the future as to how they turn up the wick on their bandwidth delivery.

This all sounds great and if you compare the speed you can get on VM to the other UK broadband suppliers, it is, on average faster at around 12 – 14M. But, compare this to what you can get from an efficient HSPA service on Mobile Broadband. Where there is service and capacity you will see similar speeds of 12Mbit/s on your speed test! Personally I would not believe it until I saw it myself recently. This is the tip of the iceberg if you read what LTE and 4G services can deliver to even a moving point, let alone a fixed wireless point i.e. 500Mbit/s + . It makes the fixed network look quite lame. But all is not that simple – is it ever?! Right now, if you turned that speed onto your mobile network you would need to call your Bank Manager everyday to arrange an overdraft. There are considerable obstacles to overcome both technically and commercially to make these networks seriously competitive in the medium term but fasten your seatbelts as the fast ride into the competitive future is very close at hand and that can only be good for consumers!

 

The long road from Analogue to 4G mobile

From then to now?

Many many years ago when the yuppie hoard roamed the western world there came a really useful form of communications in the form of a portable phone. Portable was the description but it was more akin to ‘luggable’ and came in the form of a small suitcase or brief case connected to a car battery or similar. At the time they were the rich business man’s toy and remained so for some time with the key advantage being that you could tell your wife that you were on the way home and to put the dinner on! How things have changed over the last 25 years!

Analogue technology was very quickly replaced by Digital at the beginning of the 90’s and GSM was born. This was a natural evolution from a specification that was developed in the Nordic countries called NMT (Nordic Mobile Telecommunications). It was such a good fit that it became the major template for the new standard although the operating frequencies necessarily had to change. Operating frequencies and their availability remains a major theme of all development discussion in this space to this day and is likely to always remain so. Incidentally, this left two major telecoms vendors in a remarkably good position to supply the world with mobile terminals and Nokia and Ericsson started to clean up with one company becoming almost preeminent for the whole of the 90’s and even into the 00’s. But, as Nokia now know, nothing can ever be taken for granted.

What grew up behind this development was a battle between Europe /Asia and the USA and Japan. The major market developed in Europe and Asia and the USA lagged behind. Japan managed to maintain a considerable growth and innovation with their standards approach but it had little to do with the rest of the world and just made it a difficult market to enter for western suppliers. This is a whole historical piece on its own but is really just an interesting subject conversation and considered opinions as to how this period became so complicated.

Things are much clearer now however, or are they? Now we are heading through the 3G period, with 2G almost forgotten, (although used by us all on a daily basis) and with many improvements being layered on top of the old standard. Now we see HSPA in its two main varieties HSDPA and HSUPA, the D and the U in both cases standing for Download and Upload. These services provide High Speed access to mobile at and around fixed broadband speeds where network is available.

We are now moving slowly towards 4G and LTE services and these are expected in the UK in 2013 if all goes to plan. Briefly, LTE stands for Long Term Evolution and is a subset of the overall 4G standard. As usual, there are standards, and there are standards; which leaves some confusion. The major hardware vendors are all rushing to get their interpretation of the ‘standard’ out there and working to prove a point and accelerate growth. Certain parts of Scandinavia, USA and Arabia are already starting to offer trial services although the terminals are not in the mass market yet.  The consideration of these standards and services requires considerable explanation but for now, let’s have a look at the quantum jump in speeds we can expect in the future if all works out perfectly – which it won’t!

 

 

Data   speeds  –  LTE   Advanced

Peak Download 1 Gbit/s
Peak Upload 500 Mbit/s

 

Data   speeds  –  LTE

 

 
Peak Download 100 Mbit/s
Peak Upload 50 Mbit/s

The Road to 4G services

What is the situation with 4G services in the UK and what are we really waiting for?

UK users are going to have to wait a bit longer for 4G as the auctions for providing services is scheduled for late 2012 with first launch only possible in 2013 although this would appear impractical.

But what are we really waiting for?

3G services have rolled into 3.5G services and even 3.9G services, which are not standards as such but variations on the theme of the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) release schedule. These mid services primarily support HSDPA and HSUPA High Speed Download Packet Access and High Speed Upload Packet Access , The download offering promises speeds towards the terminal of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.0Megabit/s. This is not a symmetrical offering and the upload speed is offering a new bearer of 384 kbit/s. The previous maximum bearer was 128 kbit/s. HSUPA or the HSPA offers up-link speeds of up to 5.76 Mbit/s. The name HSUPA was created incidentally by Nokia.

However, this is an ideal view of the world and in practice the speeds achieved are woefully short of this but let’s keep the view ‘blue sky’ for the moment.

In summary, 4G or 4TH Generation services offer a Peak data rates of up to 100 Mbit/s for high mobility and up to approximately 1 Gbit/s for low mobility such as local wireless access. Then it starts to get really very technical as to how this quantum leap in speeds is achieved with super efficient frequency modulation and various advanced radio techniques but maybe we will come back to this at a later date to try to unravel what it is and why it can promise so much. Further analysis is also required of the industry politics the other challenges in providing these super fast access speeds which 10 years ago would have been unthinkable. The bottle neck is going to move out of the access interface and into the core network and that is going to be a considerable challenge to the mobile operators as up until now they could blame everything else for slow response. There is a way to go yet for terminal and network, but as we always say, it can only get better in the future and the future is….well yes, yet to be discovered.