Everything's Relative, Especially Wireless Broadband Speeds


Swedish wireless companies, in an effort to satisfy the nation’s consumer ombudsman, have come up with what they’re hoping is a better representation of wireless broadband speeds, what they’ve dubbed the “practical maximum speed.” In most countries, network operators advertise their wireless speeds based on the maximum levels achieved in the lab, which is the equivalent of advertising the maximum amount of weight lost by people shown in weight-loss commercials as typical. But in reality, wireless broadband speeds depend on several constantly changing variables, such as how far a person is from a tower and how many people are on the network at any point in time.

So to help consumers get a better sense of what they’re really buying, earlier this month, the ombudsman, Gunnar Larsson, said that Tele2, Telenor, Telia and 3 shouldn’t be allowed to advertise theoretical maximum speeds. Using the maximum speeds for an HSPA network, for example, means operators are advertising speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps down. But I’m not convinced the Swedish operators are being all that transparent with their ombudsman, either, for they have decided that the “practical maximum speed” of an HSPA network is some 6 Mbps.

Since that struck me as still too high, I reached out to Peter Rysavy, a wireless analyst at Rysavy Research. In a report issued last year, he put typical speeds for an HSPA network at a range of 700 kbps to 1.7 Mbps (the chart and accompanying footnotes can be found on page 37 and 38). Notably for those excited about LTE, his estimates for LTE are 10 Mbps on the downlink and 5 Mbps on the uplink.

speedchart1 speedchart2



The thing is, with lab tests, they’ve obtained such high speeds because, they’re probably only a few metres from the tower/reciever and they have the best of equipment on their side working for them. When in all honesty no houses are usually within the 10-50 metres you’d get max speed. The majority of houses are in between 100-upto-3-4 KM (2.5 Miles) away. Why promote speeds that no one will get?


If I’ve understood the ombudsman correctly operators are still allowed to “advertise their wireless speeds based on the maximum levels achieved in the lab” but not based on some link level data rate that can never be reached (even in theory) at the user level.

Call me a skeptic but why would the typical LTE user data rate be twice as fast as HSPA+ (given both have 2×2 MIMO and use the same spectrum)? Both HSPA+ and LTE are walking the Shannon capacity line, i.e. they are as efficient as physics will allow. Only by adding more base stations, using more spectrum, increasing transmit power or removing users can you increase the typical data rate.


Could you please post on wireless and general ADSL speed in Australia? And also if there are to be any developments in increasing their speeds?

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