Don’t plan your business around fast mobile broadband

I’ve written before, on this site and elsewhere, about how invaluable mobile broadband is for helping businesses stay in touch with employees and clients on the move.

I’m not about to recant just yet but Ofcom’s recent study into mobile broadband speed did make me think that I might have been a bit hasty.

O2 have grabbed much of the limelight in the press for coming out top on speeds – an average of 2.5 and 3Mb, not too bad when you consider that’s just less than the average for home broadband users in ADSL areas.

But Orange’s average speed was just 1.5Mb and when the regulator looked into the speeds mobile users were actually experiencing (i.e. speeds in areas without good 3G signal) mobile broadband was even slower.

Although the spectrum auction planned for next year should bring speeds up to some extent even the head honcho at 3 – the most fervent of 3G believers – said that he didn’t expect speeds to reach 10Mb in some areas of cities until 2016.

So what’s the upshot for businesses?

Basically, this: mobile broadband providers advertise speeds of around ‘up to’ 3 or even 7Mb but don’t expect to reach anything near that and don’t underestimate the impact it will have on your business.

It’s not that working from a 3G-enabled smartphone or computer is entirely unproductive, far from it, but businesses should take care to manage their expectations of how much their employees can achieve using this technology.

Julia Kukiewicz is editor of consumer information site Choose. The site offers market research and debate into the home media and mobile and personal finance industries, as well as covering rights issues for consumers. Follow Choose for more on twitter at @choosenet.