Mobile data speeds under regulatory spotlight

Lucia Schiavoni/Ovum
09 Jan 2014
00:00
News
Commentary

Telecom regulators are now seeking to monitor the reliability and speed of mobile broadband, with the US the latest country to launch a monitoring scheme for mobile broadband performance.

Although most countries have launched their monitoring schemes relatively recently, at the moment the majority cover only fixed broadband. However, the increasing uptake of 4G connections is prompting change, as mobile broadband becomes a substitute for fixed connections.

The success of monitoring initiatives is difficult to assess at present, but operators should expect them to become more widespread; they should co-operate with regulators and ensure they offer their services at the promised quality.

Monitoring is likely to encourage operators to deliver a higher-quality experience

As Ovum noted in its report Broadband performance monitoring schemes, regulators are increasingly seeking to measure the performance of broadband connections. They are developing monitoring schemes with regular measurements, and increasing their focus on consumer protection.

This subject has long been high on the agendas of some regulators (e.g. European NRAs), and has more recently become a key issue for regulators in other regions.

Ovum’s research has found substantial differences between countries in the development of methodologies and parameters to measure. Download throughput is the variable most commonly associated with broadband performance, and it receives significant attention from both regulators and ISPs (when marketing Internet offers). Although consistency across countries is desirable because it enables easy cross-country comparisons, its absence should not be a cause for concern. Broadband performances may vary between countries because of specific factors that make it difficult to carry out meaningful comparisons between different countries.

The success of monitoring schemes is difficult to gauge at this point. Although Ofcom in the UK has been monitoring Internet speeds since 2008, it is hard to directly attribute the increase in average actual speeds to the program. The FCC in the US started its scheme in 2011, and has already found noteworthy changes in its second report.

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