4G happy, 3G sad

4G happy, 3G sad

More than seven in every 10 people with 4G are happy with the internet they can get through their phone, compared with just over half of people getting 3G.

That’s the conclusion of Ofcom’s first crowdsourced project to find out exactly how customers are using their mobiles.

The Ofcom Mobile Research app, currently only available for Android, runs in the background of your smartphone and quietly gathers data.

It’s available for free on the Google Play Store. 4G happy, 3G sad 1

What does it measure?

  • UK network performance
  • WiFi
  • 3G performance
  • 4G performance
  • 2G use and performance
  • voice call reliability
  • user experience and habits

With this new app, Ofcom gathered data direct from over 4,200 customers between September and December 2016.

It gave up crucial stats and data judged to be much closer to real-world experiences than other research allows.

4G better than 3G

The headline news is that only 60% of people using 3G to access the internet were pleased with their service, compared to 71% of happy customers using 4G.

Customers whose phones are 4G-enabled get this faster connection 65% of the time, but are still stuck on 3G networks 30% of the time and are bumped down to 2G in 5% of cases.

It’s bad news for Three, who have the fastest 3G mobile speeds, but whose 4G services are only available 50% of the time.

It’s better news for EE, whose 4G services are regularly judged the best in the business.

Overall data service was good, with more than 9 in 10 data downloads successful for both 4G and 3G, with 4G downloads being 3 percent more successful than those on 3G.

WiFi winning over 4G

Ofcom’s research shows that WiFi connections provide faster internet and lower latency than both 4G and 3G.

Despite high levels of mobile service satisfaction, 4G customers connect to WiFi to use apps 69% of the time.

When it comes to voice performance, less than 1% of all calls are dropped due to a lack of service and 90% said they were happy making calls on their network.

The results of this research are far from groundbreaking. We’ve all known for years that 4G is better than 3G (as it should be) and that WiFi outperforms both of these mobile internet services.

The good news is that Ofcom’s new crowdsourced app mirrors the reliable, valid data that we’ve been talking about for ages.

These kinds of user-generated results should mean top bosses can regulate accurately when networks don’t deliver the service they’ve promise to real customers.


Samuel Newman is a consumer journalist and blogger based in Sheffield.
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