Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Swedish MNOs agree standard definition of MBB data rates

Mobile network operators have been dogged by criticism that they make over-inflated claims about their mobile broadband speeds, particularly compared to DSL.

Swedish mobile operators Telia Sonera, Telenor, Tele2 and 3 have sought to head of this criticism by agreeing to a set of guidlines about how they can promote their mobile broadband speeds. As of 1 September they will promote the 'practical maximum' rather than the 'theoretical maximum'.

The speeds are as follows:
  • 3G - (384Mbit/s) can be advertised as 0.3Mbit/s (surely that's the same!)

  • Turbo 3G (3.6Mbit/s) can be advertised as 3Mbit/s

  • Turbo 3G (7.2Mbit/s) can be advertised as 6Mbit/s

  • Turbo 3G (14.4Mbit/s) can be advertised as 10Mbit/s

  • Turbo 3G (21 Mbit/s) can be advertised as 16 Mbit/s
While this is a step in the right direction it doesn't go very far. In effect they've simply agreed to market the practical maximum as 70-80% of the theoretical. There's nothing more complicated than that. It's a gesture in the direction of reflecting reality, but it doesn't. In their defence, however, no definition is ever going to reflect reality as speeds are so dependent on local factors. The only way to do it is to let subscribers try it for themselves. That's facilitated by try-before-you-buy and, from now on, by bundling free connectivity with embedded laptops. This promises to be a massive marketing opportunity as outlined in the recent report from Analysys Mason: Mobile broadband devices: from USB modems to where?


  1. Certainly a step in the right direction, but it needs to be made clear that 'practical maximum' is highly atypical

  2. Wait a minute, isn't this a shared bandwidth amongst all users in a given cell ? Because if it is, then it's still not in any way comparable to DSL. At least the access link in DSL is dedicated... For the difference between the two, I refer you to these ads: http://www/fiberevolution.com/2009/04/dont-share.html

  3. Yes, that is contended capacity, but then so (to an extent) is DSL. Obviously I'm playing devil's advocate a little here as the contention will have a substantial impact on MBB whereas for DSL it'll probably be negligible. The only way to find out what speed you get is an extended trial.

  4. You're absolutely right that DSL can be contended as well, I guess my point was that it's not structurally contended, it's a choice. In a study I performed this year I was stunned (and thrilled) to find that some smaller FTTH operators were offering 100% contention on their internet service, or even more (to ensure, in the words of one, that whenever the customer runs a test he realises he's getting more than he's paying for).

    I think the definition of broadband is a crucial topic, but it's not just for vendors to address but also for regulators, governments, telcos and consumers...