When is mobile broadband the best choice? This is a question I have asked myself many times in my line of work. However in most cases, it’s fairly clear… mobile broadband is going to be better than fixed line for the scenarios where broadband speed is desired. In the rest of the cases, it’s not really easy to say what is going to be the best choice.
As an extreme example, there’s a family with 15 people who needs to connect to the Internet. Is the solution a 3G connection via cellphone, a fixed line connection with unlimited data or perhaps even better: a private connection with a 1Mbps dedicated connection?
Obviously it’s going to depend on the number of devices and connections that everyone will use. If the data traffic is going to be the same or even more than the video streaming (video-conferencing, online games, torrenting…) it may be a good option to invest in a private line.
If on the other hand, you’re going to have the same devices to use for all the tasks it may easier to invest in a mobile broadband solution (3G smartphone).
I can recommend looking at this mobile broadband UK guide for more information.
This is the point of today’s post. I’m going to compare the 3G smartphone and the private line.
For this comparison, I’m taking advantage from the fact that a few years ago I wrote a blog post comparing the 3G mobile and the fixed line. I am going to update the post with today’s technologies but I’m not going to repeat for the sake of completeness the comparisons that were already shown.
You may therefore consider this post as a “light” update of the previous review.
However, the first thing I should stress is that today 3G smartphones and the private lines are all over. You can not longer “try” these options in isolation from the others you are already using.
Therefore, this post is going to present the results of a full month test.
The comparisons below are based on the data traffic that I measured by using Ookla’s speedtest.net service and on the data connections that I tried at Oc-netz, one of the public providers of TDAX, one the German mobile carriers with a 3G roaming agreement.
I may not be able to cover all the country in a few days, so my coverage is not really that complete, but it’s still good enough to show that both options are viable for most of the scenarios.
All devices have the same connection speed in the same environment – my home.
I tried these comparison tests several times throughout last month. First I tested on a Friday on New Year’s Eve and again on Easter Sunday. I did similar measurements on two different occasions during Summer.
The results were pretty consistent.
In some occasions when the connection went down, Ookla’s service just gave me more than 1G.
The private line was always faster in the majority of all tests.
For each scenario I also recorded the data traffic on my mobile phone, so the comparison is based on the same amount of data exchanged.
Please note that I took the phone’s battery level into consideration when measuring the battery consumption for the devices. For example, I always take into account if the device is connected to charging on when I run the tests so that I take into account the fact that both gadgets are at a similar battery percentage after a few hours of use.
3G smartphone on Sprint:
I’m currently using an original Sony Ericsson Xperia, it’s only 2 years old and I got it from my mother when I moved to Italy in 2010. Therefore it’s probably the oldest 3G smartphone I’m currently using. If everything goes correct, the phone should have at least 3G, 2G and GPRS so that I should get good coverage even on the most remote places in Germany.
In my case I’m a T-Mobile customer and I’m going to use a 2G iPhone 3G, a version that should be good enough for the comparison.
However, I found a few problems with this phone when trying to test. First of all, the phone randomly disables the 3G connection after a while, which makes the test inaccurate.
Also, the phone connects to 3G at lower speeds than on the “real” test. The speed is pretty poor compared to my desktop and the fixed line connection, even worse than the 3G connection that I’ve checked on the same day.