Why mobile internet access is not broadband


We hear a lot of advertising for mobile “broadband” in the media these days, so with that in mind we in IrelandOffline did some research into this new and wondrous type of internet access.
Frankly we were shocked by what we found out…

It’s patently obvious that this method of internet access is really only “dialup with better advertising“.

For the reasons outlined below we have christened this type of mobile internet access as “midband“.

Some facts on mobile midband

* Broadband is Always on. Mobile attempts to connect on demand and may or may not connect at depending on who got there first.
* Broadband is 0.512Mbps, 0.768Mbps, 1.5Mbps minimum depending on country. Mobile can easily be 0.05kbps and on a loaded sector with 10 simultaneous connections is < 250Kbps
* Broadband is low latency, typically less than 50ms, Cable < 20ms and rarely ever more than 70ms. Mobile is 100ms to 2000ms, typically 170ms.
* Contention is strictly controlled on Broadband. Mobile can only control contention by refusing new connections.
* Broadband works irrespective and is unaffected by voice Traffic. Mobile shares bandwidth with voice traffic which has priority and subsidises data by 100:1 to 500:1
* The OECD does not count Mobile as Broadband.
* The FCC does not count Mobile as Broadband.
* Mobile is not Broadband and is typically 16 times less efficient than Fixed Wireless in the same Spectrum.

Mobile midband is well designed for what it is meant to be: a mobile internet access solution, however using it as a replacement for fixed broadband is disingenuous in the extreme.
Using the system as designed in most other countries is not really a problem as these countries have well developed fixed broadband systems in place. If you need broadband then you really need fixed broadband as a mobile systems degrades substantially when a number of users connect to the system.


LTE is the often touted solution, sadly this is not exactly correct either. Even LTE, if implemented in FOUR times the spectrum that UMTS/3G/HSPA is using today it will only just manage entry level DSL performance. Then, and only if the cells are very lightly loaded, at peak times it would be 5 times poorer. Entry level DSL (1Mbps down /128k up) is no longer regarded as valid target for Broadband rollouts.
Targets now are 2Mbps rural and 10Mbps Urban, sadly LTE can’t do that. Its 100Mbps is peak speed in less than 1% of cell area with one connection only in use.


In the real world, outside of the Mobile Phone companies, most Europeans expect more speed and performance on their Home or Business Broadband connection than an Irish Node-B (3G Cell)  has as back-haul for the entire mast!

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2 Responses

  1. Robert Munnelly says:

    I don’t know why this isn’t brought up in the public more often. Like you say, it is fine at what it’s supposed to be: low-level internet access. Almost like ’emergency’ access. But labeling it as ‘broadband’ takes advantage of a term that, though not legally defined, has connotations of a better product not on offer.

    I’d love to spend some time make this information more ‘accessible’ (the dreaded word) for consumers. Done well, this could be a pretty important campaign.

  2. Fools Errand says:

    Time to throw in the towel lads. Smart people like yez repeatedly analyzing these problems are the definition of insanity. Gombeen politicians are never going to solve yer woes and reading this whingin year in, year out is doin ma head in. Emigration to somewhere that has dacent speeds is yer only solution.

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