3G go-slow is ‘bid to boost 4G’

Mobile phone operators accused of throttling downloads to force customers to switch to new super-fast network

20 November 2013

MOBILE telephone companies have been accused of throttling the 3G service in a bid to force users to sign up for their new super-fast – and more expensive - 4G network.

Consumer champion UFC-Que Choisir has complained to telecoms watchdog Arcep that the 3G network has become poorer over the past 10 months with slower speeds for internet use and downloads. It wants Arcep to set up a national minimum speed for downloads.

Around 35million people use the 3G network and Que Choisir says its first series of tests in January highlighted the general poor quality of the service for downloading videos, music and films. A follow-up in Ile-de-France, Grenoble, Lille and Toulouse showed that it had gotten worse.

President Alain Bazot said the operators orchestrated the slide to provoke consumers into signing up for 4G: “The operators have made a massive strategic investment in 4G and there is no better way to show its value than to degrade the 3G quality.”

The new attack comes just days after Que Choisir accused Orange and SFR of misleading advertising over the extent of their 4G coverage in Paris.

Three of the four main mobile operators are targeted in the new claims, with only Bouygues recognised for having slightly improved its service – although it was criticised for reducing the attractiveness of its 3G contracts by setting tight download limits.

Overall, the network speeds were 6% down on the previous test. Free was the worst affected – especially on its own network (elsewhere it is piggy-backing on Orange until it completes its own service) – with a 16.5% increase in the number of low-speed (0-500kbs) downloads. Orange was next, with a 3% rise and SFR just ahead on 1.5%.

However, Free has threatened to launch legal action against Que Choisir contesting the methods used for the study, which it said was biased.
Photo: UFC-Que Choisir

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