O2 has been crowned top dog for mobile broadband speeds achieved on data cards and dongles in an Ofcom study into the quality of 3G coverage across the UK.
The Measuring Mobile Broadband in the UK (PDF) report was carried out by independent firm Epitiro, which ran 4.2 million tests in areas with good 3G coverage at different times including 8pm to 10pm, midnight to 6am and over a 24-hour period.
The average speed across all operators was 2.1Mbit/s, with web pages taking an average of 2.2 seconds to load. However, speeds dropped by 0.5Mbit/s during peak times of 8pm to 10pm on week nights.
O2 achieved an average connection speed over a 24-hour period of 2.4Mbit/s to 2.9Mbit/s, while Orange offered a measly 1.1Mbit/s to 1.3Mbit/s in the same period.
Vodafone fared better, coming second with 2.2Mbit/s to 2.7Mbit/s, while Three lived up to its name by coming third with 2.2Mbit/s to 2.4Mbit/s. T-Mobile rounded out the table in fourth with 1.7Mbit/s to 2.1Mbit/s over the period.
Ofcom noted that the study was carried out between September and December 2010, and that the market could well have moved on since that time, especially T-Mobile and Orange which are merging their networks to unite under the Everything Everywhere brand.
Derek McManus, chief operating officer at O2, was understandably upbeat about the research, arguing that the firm's investments are paying dividends for its customers.
"Our customers are seeing the benefit from the huge investment we've made in our network. We always aim to deliver the best network experience for our customers and these results are another indicator that we're doing just that," he said.
The research also found that 17 per cent of homes use mobile broadband to access the internet alongside fixed connections, and that seven per cent now use it as their primary internet access, compared to three per cent in 2009.
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