After a while, even the most positive and optimistic person (in this case, me) begins to get tired. In the last few months, I have tied out all the available mobile 4G networks in Nigeria – Smile, Ntel and the latest, MTN-Visafone (MTN needs to decide whether they want to call this thing MTN or Visafone). It is my job to do so. I feel like fuming and ranting though about what I have called “these 5Mbps 4G networks”.
An explanation: “5Mbps 4G networks”
I call them “5Mbps 4G LTE networks” because most times, users do note get speeds better than that figure. Speeds that many will agree are within 3G boundaries. You would ask, What is the point of having 4G networks then? But a little enlightenment is in order and then we can ask the million naira question, Are these 4G LTE networks delivering to expectations?
Theoretical Maximum Speeds versus Actual Speeds
LTE has theoretical maximum speeds of up to 100Mbps. Theoretical means “on paper”. Or in perfect, laboratory conditions. In real life, however, in congested cities, with varying coverage parametres, with hordes of users connected and all other factors, actual performance of mobile data is always much lower.
Around the world, mobile networks are not known for being the best channel for delivering the best experience. For perspective, here are the real-life speed ranges of the various mobile wireless standards commonly used in the US:
- HSPA 3.5G (theoretical 42Mbps) 3.5G: averages 1-3Mbps in real life usage
- LTE “4G” (theoretical 100Mbps): average 3Mbps to 10Mbps browsing and 20Mbps+ peak download speeds in real life usage
Sigh. So, me getting speeds in the range of 3Mbps, 5Mbps, 10Mbps, and the like on MTN-Visafone, Ntel and Smile isn’t exactly outside of standard 4G experience elsewhere. Last year, I pit Smile 4G against the 4G services of Verizon, T-mobile, ATT and Sprint (all in the USA) and got interesting results.
I still feel like ranting about 5Mbps 4G networks though. I feel like hissing at them. But this little knowledge of what obtains elsewhere constrains me. There is a universal fact though: if you want superb broadband speeds, you are better off with a cable internet service than a wireless (especially mobile) internet service. For now, what we mostly have access to are these 5Mbps 4G LTE networks. We keep moving.