Congrats, Optus: you’re the world’s worst for 3G

The survey asked users to test their available 3G data speeds and then map them to their location. 233 Australians took part in the study.

Australians have been relatively spoiled for choice when buying an iPhone with the choice of four carriers (Optus Telstra and Vodafone and Three if you’re prepared to jump through a few hoops) giving us more options than many countries. However it seems that choice hasn’t necessarily translated into serious competition on network performance.

Australians had the slowest average data speeds of any country in the survey coming in at just 759Kbps. However Optus’ 3G network – which has proven popular with iPhone buyers because of the data deals offered by both Optus and Virgin (which is owned by Optus and uses the Optus network) – ranked considerably lower coming in at a woeful 390Kbps average download speed.

In APC’s October 2008 edition — hitting newsstands tomorrow — our mobile broadband cover feature reveals that Optus’ 3G network has a latency of nearly one second which also accounts for why its internet is so slow. Latency is the time it takes for a packet of data to be sent and then an acknowledgement to be received from the other end. Unless many concurrent requests can be sent long latency can dramatically slow down data throughput. Mobile phones don’t typically make many concurrent requests when browsing webpages as they need to work on a variety of networks right down to dialup-speed GPRS.

Telstra management might gloat about its comparatively strong performance with a 990Kbps average download speed the third-fastest overall in the survey. However that’s still only a fraction of the 3Mbps downloads which Telstra claims a typical Next G user will experience suggesting that iPhone users aren’t getting the full benefits just yet. didn’t analyse Vodafone’s Australian performance – perhaps because just 16 users submitted results – but it made the full survey data available and a quick comb through it with a spreadsheet suggests that Vodafone customers are also in the slow lane with an average download speed of around 511Kbps.

Last week’s release of version 2.1 of the iPhone firmware is meant to have fixed many of the call quality and networking problems experienced by iPhone users and might make a difference in future survey results. However Optus has had other network management issues to struggle with including an apparent inability to cope with the recent influx of iPhone users and a bunch of buggy network updates which have made its network unavailable for extended periods of time.