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GWS Study Claims UK Mobile Users Satisfied with 1-5Mbps Speeds

Tuesday, Mar 19th, 2024 (11:39 am) - Score 1,320
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A new study from Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) claims to have found that the UK’s major mobile operators are currently delivering mobile broadband (4G and 5G) speeds that “satisfy the majority of mobile users” and, apparently, the “sweet spot” for most Apps is said to be between just 1-5Mbps. But this does require some context.

Personally speaking, any time my own Smartphone or Laptop connects at a speed of 1-5Mbps, I end up finding the internet to be a fairly miserable and slow experience. But such experiences can easily be coloured by subjective personal needs and demands. In the case of GWS’ study, they claim that consumer needs are being met when it comes to mobile speeds. But this, they say, is mainly down to how mobile users in the UK are using their devices.

NOTE: Ofcom currently considers 10Mbps (1Mbps upload) to be the minimum required for “decent broadband” on fixed lines under their USO, although this is now fairly out of date.

For example, 43% of screen time is spent accessing social media and browsing apps, while they also spend over half (54%) of all daily mobile use on just 10 apps (e.g. Facebook, Web Browsing, WhatsApp, Google Maps etc.), which they suggest tend not be as bandwidth heavy on mobile devices. This is a fair point.

Social media and web browsing currently account for over two-fifths (43%) of the total mobile screen time amongst UK adults (Brits spend nearly 5 hours a day on their phones). Suffice to say, it’s easier to understand how GWS can conclude that “speeds in this “everyday” [1-5Mbps] range allow the majority of UK mobile users to perform most of their mobile activity in ways they find satisfactory without the need for higher throughputs.” But we’ll come back to this point later.


The findings also claim that mobile data “speed is not a key driver for people to move networks“, with price, poor signal and blackspots ranking much higher than speed as a reason to change.


Nevertheless, we’re sceptical of the 1-5Mbps claim. For example, trying to scroll through a page on the Facebook app – filled as it is with a plethora of high-res pictures, ads and videos – is not always particularly pleasant in the 1-5Mbps speed range and many web pages these days are a few tens of MegaBytes per page load (some exceeding 100-200MB). A 100MB web page at 1Mbps takes c.13 minutes to download, while at 5Mbps it’s almost 3 minutes (dynamic loading, compression and other optimisations can help this).

The report also notes that, even if consumers experience some coverage issues with mobile networks, 40% will only use public Wi-Fi as a last resort. In fact, only 22% will use a public WiFi because they are concerned about their mobile data usage and, just as significant, only 13% will use public Wi-Fi because they think it’s faster.

The data for this study was sourced from Magnify, GWS’s mobile intelligence data platform. Magnify is comprised of key insights collected nationwide from consumers participating in their market research program. These are real-life consumers who use their mobile devices as normal throughout the day so that the analytics data GWS gathers provides the most accurate picture of the nation’s mobile connectivity experience. The data is anonymously collected from Android smartphones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever and wherever the consumers use their devices.

In addition to collecting network performance and app engagement data, GWS also surveyed participating consumers to understand sentiment and perception via GWS Magnify. This survey was conducted during the month of January 2024, with a total response size of 2,951.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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16 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Mml says:

    I find it hard to disagree. The speed at which my phone usually downloads things from the internet (which is not necessarily the max download speed my internet connection is capable of) is holding at about 200-300 KBps. The only time the download speed peaks is when I’m downloading updates from the app store, then it jumps to 2.5-3 MBps, rarely to 4… during normal phone use, a speed that high simply isn’t needed.
    And yes, I know the difference between MBps and Mbit/s.

  2. Avatar photo Jon says:

    Considering that Facebook was the most-used app in the survey group, I’d wager a good bet that some of the people surveyed would have a hard time telling between a bad signal and slow network if they experienced one of them in the real world

    Data from mobile networks shows us that most data is used up streaming video on apps like TikTok, or Football Match Streaming where 1mbps is definitely not enough

    To throttle yourself to 1mbps while using Facebook:

    Personally I find it unuseable

    1. Avatar photo insertfloppydiskhere says:

      Or of course we could go on and talk about 300kbps capped eSIMs. I found it usable using that though…

    2. Avatar photo Jon says:

      It was free though, and it was slow but had that been all i’d ever seen, i’d get used to what I had like another comment said

  3. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    Even I think 1-5Mb/s is too slow in this day and age.
    I have just been setting up a mobile router type thing for my brother, so he can acess broadband in the tent when he goes off for a few days. Ok, he could use his phone and the tablet he got a few weeks ago, has a sim slot in, but since there will be two of them a stand-alone unit will be better. But here with a vodafone sim in, I could get around 5Mbs on it, which will be ok if they want to watch something on the tablet I suppose. Not sure if it is a Vodafone problem or just where I am.
    I suppose i should have a done a speed test using his phone as he uses Vodafone on that. But lack of time.

    Still it will do for him,

  4. Avatar photo Dan says:

    Funny how GWS have come to this conclusion and who they always award best network to…

  5. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

    43% of screen time is spent accessing social media…because it takes so bloody long to load.

    1. Avatar photo Sonic says:

      Exactly. The idea that 1-5 Mbps is acceptable is laughable. Even map layers can be quite data heavy. Then again, I’d be happy if I could get 5 Mbps. Most of the time it is <1 where I am.

  6. Avatar photo Andrew says:

    This study is partnership with slo2

  7. Avatar photo Ed says:

    There’s no mentioning of latency in the report which I feel is equally if not more important aspect.

    For the average Joe whether something is fast or not comes down to how fast something appears to “happen”, slow loading is often masked / helped by progressive loading / adaptive resolution techniques.

  8. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    Most of the time I am doing data intensive things on my phone it’s connected to WIFI anyway. I used about 400m last month. Shame EE don’t allow you to roll your data like Sky. It would be great for holidays.

  9. Avatar photo Raymond says:

    This is one those situations where you get used to what you usually get.
    I am sure if you were to experience consistently faster speeds for a few weeks and then went back to your normal speed to would really notice and be annoyed by it. But you would get used to your normal speeds again.
    The above assumes that your slower speeds allow for a reasonable experience to start with.

  10. Avatar photo Kevin Pease says:

    I’m paying full price broadband for an average of 8Mb, have to use WiFi calling or risk missing calls.
    We should only start paying on a constant 35Mb.
    I’m paying the same as someone getting 50Mb +
    Providers shouldn’t be allowed to use a range like 12Mb to 30Mb when they know they can only provide at the lower end.

  11. Avatar photo Me says:

    When I browse on 5G it’s faster than my 70mbps FTTC home broadband! Due to its tech and low pings. So no 1 to 5G now is now where near enough. When I get that usually on 4G it’s a slow experience browsing the web.

  12. Avatar photo Just a thought says:

    With it’s relatively low video advert content and sparse pictures, 1-5Mbps (which is more than I can usually get on O2) is quite sufficient to browse ISPreview. What more does one need????

  13. Avatar photo Paul Smith says:

    If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have said “Faster Horses”.

    My mum used to be satisfied with VHS tapes and VideoPlus+, Until I showed her Sky and iPlayer.

    I thought the days of “Nobody well ever need X” were well and truly over.

    Infrastructure should be designed and built for scale and have tolerance for many unknown use-cases and levels of demand.

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