Mobile Broadband Genie Road Trip 2009: overall analysis

Below you will find the overall analysis for the first Mobile Broadband Genie road test. The exercise directly pitted dongles provided by six consumer mobile broadband suppliers (O2, Orange, 3, T-Mobile, Virgin Media and Vodafone) against each other on a 350-mile rail journey.

Armed with laptops, Broadband Genie staff took a train trip from Cambridge to Bournemouth, including a stop at London King's Cross, putting the dongles through their paces all the way. After all, what is the point in doing a postcode check for mobile broadband if you already have a good home fixed-line connection and need it as a back-up on your travels?

This was an on-the-spot exercise using the kind of frustrating conditions consumers find them themselves in every day. The fascinating results echoed the general reaction Mobile Broadband Genie gets from its visitors when it comes to mobile broadband: we expect much more than it is currently able to supply.


We requested test dongles from each supplier and received the following: Huawei E160 x3 (O2, Orange, Virgin Media), Huawei E169G (3), Huawei E170 (T-Mobile), Huawei E172 (Vodafone).

Mobile Broadband Genie speed tests

Our mobile broadband speed test, created in partnership with Think Broadband. During the road trip we did more than 10 of our speed tests for each dongle at various points during the trip, including King's Cross and Bournemouth. The majority were done on the move in a mixture of rural and urban areas.

Vodafone's was the only dongle to complete all of these speed tests, with Virgin Media, Orange and 3 failing two. T-Mobile and O2 failed three tests each. A fail was recorded if either the dongle could not get a signal at the start of the test, or if it started the test but failed to complete (to the results page) within a reasonable time frame. If no dongle could begin the test, because none could receive any signal, the test was aborted.

Downloading top speed: Taking O2 and 3 as a rough average performance (around 0.75Mb), Vodafone (1.2Mb) was twice as fast and Virgin Mobile (1.8Mb) three times as fast. T-Mobile's top speed (0.35Mb) was about half of O2/3, while Orange could only manage a top speed of around one sixth of the average (0.1Mb, just over 100Kb).

Download average speed (averaged by top three results on the move): With the exception of T-Mobile (0.25Mb) and Orange (0.1Mb), who held their average around their top speed, the average saw a drop off of around 25 to 50 per cent. The biggest fall was from 3 (0.3Mb), with smaller falls from Virgin Media (1.25Mb), Vodafone (0.95Mb) and O2 (0.6Mb).

Upload top speed: Vodafone (0.55Mb) was a clear winner, and T-mobile a clear loser (0.08Mb), while there wasn't too much daylight between O2 (0.35Mb), Orange (0.3Mb), 3 (0.3Mb) and Virgin Mobile (0.25Mb).

Upload average speed (averaged by top three results on the move): Vodafone (0.5Mb), O2 (0.3Mb), Virgin Mobile (0.25Mb) and T-Mobile (0.06Mb) were fairly consistent, while Orange (0.15Mb) and 3 (0.1Mb) were far more erratic. The upload test also took into consideration tests uploading images to Facebook, with all but Virgin Media and 3 putting in strong performances. The Vodafone dongle managed to upload a 427k image to the social networking site in just 20 seconds.

Streaming and downloading tests

These trials were to test the kind of activity common to many consumers. We downloaded podcasts (from the BBC website) as well as streaming both video (YouTube) and audio (Spotify) content. All of these tests were completed on the move during the train journeys, in a mixture of rural and urban settings.

Here the eventual winner and runner up, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone respectively, really shone. Both dongles completed all of the downloading and streaming challenges, cleaning the board with victories and runners up prizes for everything except the Spotify streaming test.

Highlights included the Vodafone dongle streaming a music video straight through,caching it without a hiccup, and the Virgin Media dongle downloading a 22.4MB BBC podcast in just 3.11 minutes at 120Kb.

T-Mobile, O2 and Orange did less to impress. T-Mobile and Orange only failed one test each, but only Orange's faultless Spotify performance ranking first or second. O2 streamed from Spotify without a stutter, but downloaded one podcast with an average time and failed the two other tests. 3 failed to make any impact at all, being slowest for both downloads and failing to finish both streaming tests.



  • neutral

    by martin barlow at 16:16 on 14 Jun 2009 Report abuse

    But!!! Virgin Mobile Broadband is T-mobile UK, it's the same thing, so your results make no sense.

  • neutral

    by macy busson at 13:24 on 21 Jul 2009 Report abuse

    Now-a-days, we use Internet almost everyday for different purposes and sometimes we find ourselves in difficult situations due to no Internet connection.
    But now, with the mobile broadband we can enjoy high speed Internet connectivity on the move.
    Furthermore, mobile broadband gives the facility to the users to surf web even when they are away from home or traveling.
    There are many broadband providers which are providing several offers and deals. These providers include companies like T-mobile, O2, Orange and Vodafone and there are other mobile phone networks companies as well which are offering lucrative deals as well.

  • neutral

    by adamfreeman29 at 11:31 on 21 Mar 2011 Report abuse

    Yeh! i accept the points mention in above comments. The mobile broadband offers more usage facilities when compared with normal broadband network. The broadband providers like O2, Orange and T-mobile are very innovative in providing broadband through mobile phones. best mobile phone

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