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Orange UK - 348KB is Fast Enough for Mobile Broadband Users
By: MarkJ - 29 August, 2008 (2:33 PM)

Orange has been taking some flak on the other side of the channel (France) this week for throttling the Mobile Broadband (3G) data transfer speeds of its iPhone using customers to just 384Kbps (Kilo Bits Per Second). This got us to thinking; does Orange UK intend to do the same thing over here?

The response we received this afternoon was a little vague, though it would appear as though they believe that "a 348 KB data allowance is enough to guarantee a really comfortable and fast access to internet, emails and video," stated an Orange UK spokesperson to us. However, Orange may be getting their Kilobits (Kb), KiloBytes (KB), Megabits (Mb) and MegaBytes (MB) dangerously confused:

Orange UK Spokesperson: "In order to optimise the usage of our 3G+ network (which is still being improved) for the mobile mass market, we allocate a broadband capacity that ensures that all our customers benefit from broadband in a fair way, depending on their usage and their handsets.

At the moment, for most 3G or 3G+ phones a 348 KB data allowance is enough to guarantee a really comfortable and fast access to internet, emails and video. Of course, for 3G+ cards and PC cards holders using consumer or business offers we offer data allowance of up to 7.2 MB.

For new hybrid handsets such as the iPhone (phone and PC), Orange optimises the available data allowance for new customers (up to 1.8 MB) and will complete this optimisation for existing customers by mid-September.

As a reminder, network speeds can vary depending on handset types, network capacity and signal strength.

Initially we thought this was good news because 348KiloByte's per second works out at approximately 2.7Mbps (Megabits per second), which is an achievable and functional speed for mobile operators to be aiming for.

However the reference to 7.2 MB further down would appear to be incorrect, since that refers to 7.2 MegaBytes per second when Mobile Broadband should be 7.2 Megabits per second, which also calls into question the KB reference.

To help put things into perspective, 1MegaByte per second (1MBps) is equal to 8 Megabits per second (8Mbps), 1024 KiloBytes per second (KBps) or 8192 Kilobits per second (Kbps); you can easily see the significant differences here (8 bits to every byte).

Due to this we assume that what Orange are actually saying is that they think 348 Kilobits per second, NOT KiloBytes, would be enough for a "really comfortable and fast access" Internet connection, with video downloads. We doubt that, we doubt that a lot.

In fact 348Kbps would actually be slower than the original maximum download speed of first generation 3G (UTMS) mobile technology, which peaks at 384Kbps and only deranged Ofcom would classify that as broadband. Many modern video streams tend to function at a minimum of 400Kbps to 720Kbps for a reasonable quality. We're currently awaiting some clarity from Orange.

UPDATE 16:08pm: Orange has confirmed our suspicions and clarified that they meant Kilobits and Megabits, not KiloBytes and MegaBytes as KB and MB would usually infer.

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