Mobile broadband speed comparison: Is Three the magic number?

We are as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore. In an age where a tweet can take down a government, mobile internet needs to be available everywhere. And at the least, it needs to be available where the provider says it is. Often, it’s not.

Courtesy of Three lending us a mobile, we managed to get sim cards for four major networks, put them all in iPhone 4’s and tested their internet services. As a long-time Orange customer, the results were unsurprising.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Morrell Photography

The networks we included were Vodafone, O2, Orange and Three. We figured that T-Mobile are about to be eaten by Orange, and we don’t know anyone on T-Mobile anyway (sorry).
The tests came in two parts – the first was the speed checker at Testmyiphone.com. This gave a download speed for each service.

However, as we ran the test multiple times for each network at each location, with varying results each time, it was decided that a true “network speed” number would be misleading. Luckily, despite multiple tests, the networks came out in the same order each time.

The second part, the loading of large websites (such as skysports.com), provided the same order, so we think we’re onto something:

Wimbledon, 9PM, Saturday
1. Vodafone
2. Three
3. O2
4. Orange

Fulham, 7PM, Tuesday
1. O2
2. Vodafone
3. Three
4. Orange

Mile End, 3PM, Thursday
1. Vodafone
2. Three
3. Orange

There are a huge number of variables in network tests, such as how many other users of the network are in your area, or if you’re much closer to one company’s mast or not. Therefore our tests can only be seen as a rough guide. We’d like to think we were being fair, three of the four corner of London, but we acknowledge that this test is by no means comprehensive.

That said, our tests reflect the opinions of people we spoke to. Vodafone and O2 customers in London tend not to complain about mobile internet signal. Orange users (me included) are infinity frustrated by it. And Three, the plucky little network that could, is quietly pleasing its small fanbase.

Three sent us a little message about their new unlimited PAYG data plans –all-you-can-eat data for Pay As You Go customers for just £15. Which at the risk of sounding like an advert, looks worth investigating.

To celebrate the launch of this new offer, Three will also be running a competition over the coming month to show the value of the deal, with prizes including a 30-day first class rail travel pass to Europe for two. Runners up prizes of a smartphone along with all-you-can-eat data, free for a year and a huge amount of free calls and texts each month will also be up for grabs.

The competition will run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the 7th March to the 1st April, with more information available at www.three.co.uk/allyoucaneat or on Twitter at @threeUK