Ofcom gives thumbs up to mobile in the UK, not everyone agrees

Ofcom has released a report which summarises the initial results from the its latest mobile research, and it paints a fairly healthy picture of UK wireless connectivity.

Jamie Davies

June 19, 2017

3 Min Read
Ofcom gives thumbs up to mobile in the UK, not everyone agrees

Ofcom has released a report which summarises the initial results from the its latest mobile research, and it paints a fairly healthy picture of UK wireless connectivity.

In terms of data service availability, more than nine in ten mobile data downloads are successful for both 4G and 3G-only users, at 95.6% and 92.4% respectively. Unsurprisingly, performance was higher on 4G than it was for 3G, though wifi is still the boss.

When using apps, 4G consumers are connected to wifi 69% of the time. When watching YouTube for instance, those using 4G could receive speeds of 3.8 Mbps, though this was down to 2.7 Mbps on 3G, with wifi trumping both with 6.6 Mbps. For the effort put into the connected economy, we’re still not quite there. As long as mobile networks are viewed as secondary, the idea of always connected will suffer slightly.

The fact that 69% of us are connected to wifi while using apps does also seem to indicate we are still a little bit reserved about our data usage and limits. Unlimited data tariffs might be a hot topic in the states, but it hasn’t necessarily penetrated the UK market yet. Without achieving the goal of being constantly connected by super-fast mobile networks, the success of the connected economy will always be slightly muted.

“Ofcom has not yet given a network by network breakdown, which makes it difficult for consumers to determine which network might be best for them,” said Ernest Doku of uSwitch.com. “The findings are likely to give providers pause for thought as to whether it’s their data service that’s dragging down their customer satisfaction scores.”

Meanwhile network performance comparison company RootMetrics questioned the underlying methodology. “It may seem like a good idea to use crowd-generated data but, in our experience, it doesn’t come close to painting a true picture of mobile performance in the UK,” said Scott Stonham, General Manager, Europe at RootMetrics. “Crowd data is inherently flawed from a scientific perspective because of relies on self-selecting – rather than random – data collection. For the public to have confidence in the results they are seeing, it is imperative to – at a minimum – layer scientific data on top of crowd, to test more cities, and use a rigorous scientific process.”

While these speeds are not going to necessarily cause whiplash anywhere, the consumers are happy. On the 4G side of things, 71% said they were either ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ satisfied with their mobile service, though this was more from those who live in the cities not the countryside. Perhaps more surprisingly is that 5% of people were connected to a 2G network while data is transferred during app session. That’s one in twenty, which seems a bit on the high side.

Although it is a bit of useful information, it’s only a taster. Additional analysis of usage trend information captured by the research app will be published in the UK Communications Market Report in August, which will hopefully have a bit more detail on the performance of specific telcos.



UPDATE – 12:00 20/6/17: Ofcom has contested the RootMetrics claim and given us the following statement: “The data drawn from Ofcom’s app is absolutely not crowd-sourced. In fact, it is collected from consumers across the country, using representative panels, which means the results reflect UK consumers’ experiences. Our research is robust, comprehensive and independent.”

Additionally Ofcom clarified that it’s not planning to make and provider comparisons when it publishes additional analysis in August and will focus instead on broader trends.

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